Marriage, Marital History, and Black – White Wealth Differentials Among Older Women

Authors


  • This article was edited by Deborah Carr.

Department of Population Health Sciences, 707 Warf, 610 Walnut St., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53726–2397 (faddo@wisc.edu).

Abstract

This study investigated the impact of union history and marital transitions on wealth inequality between older Black and White women (N = 7,026). Cohort data from the Health and Retirement Study show large and increasing Black – White differences in wealth. Marital and relationship histories are associated with the wealth accumulation process among older women. Women who married and stay married accumulated levels of wealth that exceeded those of other women with disrupted family lives. The marriage – wealth nexus is sensitive to a woman's position in the wealth distribution. Quantile regression results revealed that racial differences in total wealth holdings between Black and White women exist throughout the wealth distribution, whereas the relationship between current union history and wealth differentials is significant at the lower tail and middle of the distribution. Decomposition analyses highlighted the nontrivial role of racial disparities in marital histories in accounting for the racial wealth gap. As members of the baby boom generation enter their retirement years, it will be more important than ever to monitor the wealth accumulation process among older single and racial/ethnic minority women.

Ancillary