Expected widowhood duration varies with socio-economic status

November 8, 2018

Applied Economics Letters


This article examines the expected duration of widowhood and its variation by socio-economic status (SES). The relationship between widowhood duration (WD) and SES and how they relate to annuitization and longevity risk is relevant in the light of ongoing changes in many pension systems. Using data from Ireland, WD is estimated for older married individuals, as a function of spousal age gap and spousal longevity gap. Both of the gaps are negatively correlated with SES. Thus, WD is negatively correlated with SES. Wives in the bottom of the SES distribution have the highest degree of annuitization, protecting them against longevity risk brought about by a higher WD. The movement towards less automatic annuitization may impact future widows differently, depending on their SES.