Gender, aging, and social policy

Madonna Harrington Meyer, Wendy M. Parker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

16 Scopus citations


The US has undergone substantial social and demographic changes over the last several decades, and many of the gender gaps have narrowed. This chapter reviews the theoretical, empirical, and policy-related research on gender differences in old age in the US. It summarizes two key socio-demographic trends-changes in marriage and care work-that shape gender differences in old age. It then examines gender differences in income and health, and explores the degree to which these are addressed by current old age policies in the US. Two key factors, increases in single parenting and the increasing intensity of unpaid care work, continue to shape gender inequality across the life course and well into old age. Gender differences in health, and in access to various types of health benefits, vary significantly across the life course. Finally, this chapter evaluates some policy solutions that could reduce gender inequality in old age. When analyzing gender inequality, old age scholars tend to highlight how social and economic factors constrain individual actions across the life course. Old age scholars will continue to analyze how the recent emphasis on cutting costs and on privatizing public benefits has overshadowed policy proposals that have the potential to make existing programs more responsive to changing social and demographic trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Aging and the Social Sciences
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780123808806
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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