An assessment of the wealth holdings of recent widows

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2000 Mar;55(2):S90-7. doi: 10.1093/geronb/55.2.s90.


Objectives: This study examines the wealth holdings of recent widows, how they compare to those of married couple households, and the potential to use this wealth to augment the incomes of widowed women.

Methods: Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation are used to investigate the amount and composition of wealth held by four different groups: always married women, about-to-be-widowed women, recent widows, and long-standing widows. Regression analyses assess the impact of group membership on wealth holding controlling for other sociodemographic factors, and annuity calculations assess the potential for wealth to augment income.

Results: About-to-be widowed women have fewer assets than intact couples, and there is a further decline in assets at the time of the husbands' deaths and in the ensuing period. Estimates of the annuity value of widows' wealth show that its liquidation would do little to improve the economic situation of the poorest widows.

Discussion: These findings parallel what is known about income changes that surround the death of a spouse. They also point to the need for additional research on the relationship between wealth holdings and mortality as well as the roles that health care costs, life insurance, and bequests may play in altering widows' wealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Widowhood*