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Family Status and Poverty among Older Women: The Gendered Distribution of Retirement Income in the United States

Madonna Harrington Meyer
Social Problems
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov., 1990), pp. 551-563
DOI: 10.2307/800581
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800581
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Family Status and Poverty among Older Women: The Gendered Distribution of Retirement Income in the United States
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Abstract

While the elderly in general enjoy improved economic status, older women continue to face disproportional impoverishment; nearly three-fourths of the elderly poor in the United States are women. A review of U. S. and British feminist writing suggests that old-age income schemes are gendered in three key ways: (1) retirement income is linked to waged labor, which is itself gendered; (2) non-waged reproductive labor, performed predominantly by women, is not recognized as labor; and (3) family status is conceptualized as permanent rather than transient. The supposedly gender-neutral eligibility and benefit structures of three major U. S. retirement income programs--Social Security, private pensions, and personal pensions such as Individual Retirement Accounts--are examined to show how they produce a gendered distribution of old age income.

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