Linking benefits to marital status: race and Social Security in the US

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


In the US, marital status is more important than work history in determining economic security for many older women. Two-thirds of older women in the US receive spouse or widow Social Security benefits. These benefits generally require recipients to be currently married or to have had a ten-year marriage. Declining marriage rates, coupled with shorter marriages, dramatically change the distributional impact of these benefits on each cohort as they become eligible for Social Security. This paper uses June 1985, 1990, and 1995 CPS supplemental data to trace the decline in marital rates for women from five birth cohorts. We find that the proportion of persons who will be eligible as spouses or widows is decreasing modestly for whites and Hispanics, but dramatically for African Americans. This growing race gap in marital rates suggests that older black women will be particularly unlikely to qualify for these benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-162
Number of pages18
JournalFeminist Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Economic security
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Race
  • Social Security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'Linking benefits to marital status: race and Social Security in the US'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this