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Keywords:

  • earnings;
  • elderly;
  • income;
  • marital status;
  • poverty;
  • women

This study investigates the factors contributing to older women's economic well-being from a life course perspective, assessing the effects of both midlife characteristics and later life events on women between the ages of 66–70, and 71–85. Using the 1968–1997 Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the findings suggest that midlife characteristics such as workforce participation, income, and rural residence are strongly related to economic outcomes in old age. Late-life events and characteristics, however, also contribute significantly to economic outcomes even when midlife factors are incorporated into analyses. In addition, both midlife and later life characteristics contribute to the persistence of poverty in old age, with many groups of ever poor women finding themselves in poverty for over 50% of their old age years.