October 8, 2016

FISH DISCOVER NEED FOR BICYCLE: The Gray Gender Gap: Older Women Are Likelier to Go It Alone.

Even among men over 85, nearly 60 percent are married. By that point, only 17 percent of women are.

Life expectancy explains only part of this gap, said Deborah Carr, interim director of the Institute for Health at Rutgers University who has studied marriage and widowhood.

Yes, women tend to live longer and to marry men older than themselves, so they’re more likely to be widowed.

The other factor, though, is that “men are much more likely to remarry than women,” Dr. Carr said. With 2.55 women for every man among unmarried people over age 65, and 3.27 unmarried women for every unmarried man over 85, “a man who wants to remarry has a very large pool.”

At older ages, these differences can have significant repercussions.

Consider living arrangements. Among people over 75, the report points out, 23 percent of men live alone. For women, the figure is twice as high. . . .

And many older unmarried women do face economic difficulties.

“Women take more of a hit financially from widowhood and divorce,” said Deborah Umberson, director of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

How much of a hit? Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has calculated poverty rates based on the federal Current Population Survey. Her findings: About 8 percent of married older adults are poor or “near poor.” Among unmarried men, the percentage rises to about 20 percent. For unmarried women, it’s 27 percent.

Research has long demonstrated a health benefit from marriage, too. “Divorce and widowhood are terrible for your health,” Dr. Umberson said.

Hmm. I remember when the problem was old men living too long.

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