The Role of Marital History, Early Retirement Benefits, and the Economic Status of Women

Tay K. McNamara John B. Williamson

WP#2003-1

Abstract

This article compares the relative economic status of women who take and postpone taking early Social Security benefits, with particular attention to the role of marital history. Marital history categories discussed include: lifelong marriages, marriages in which the woman had been previously divorced or widowed, divorced, widowed, and never married. The results presented here should be useful in evaluating the potential consequences of increasing the Earliest Entitlement Age (EEA). While increasing the EEA would not cause economic hardship for many, it may have adverse effects on divorced and widowed women who generally are at greater risk of poverty than married women. The economic effects of prior divorce or widowhood are reflected in the lower financial resources of women who remarry.