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Marital Status and Gender Inequality in Household Income Among Older Adults in Israel: Changes Over time

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Marital status has long been associated with social and economic vulnerability, namely unmarried individuals were seen as more vulnerable than the married. The current study examines gender inequalities in household income among older Israeli widowed, divorced, and never-married individuals. Israel provides an interesting case for examining the distinction between different marital statuses over time due to demographic, socioeconomic and policy changes that transpired during three distinct decades—the early 1990s, early 2000s, and early 2010s. We found that the unmarried have lower household income as compared to the married; however, in terms of income per capita, unmarried men appear to have higher income than that of married men, in contrast to unmarried women—particularly those divorced and widowed—who are clearly at a disadvantage as compared to married women and to men in general. We also found that over time, gender inequality increased among the divorced but decreased among the widowed. Sociodemographic changes as well as transformations in the Israeli labor market, welfare state and pension schemes explain our findings.

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  1. In the past, Israeli housewives were not allowed to insure themselves in the public pension system. For a short period housewives were entitled to voluntarily insure themselves, but most of them chose not to do so (Gal, 2014). Since 1996, nonworking married women are automatically insured in the public pension system (Gal, 2014, 48).They nonetheless receive only a reduced old-age annuity as compared to the others insured because they are not entitled to a seniority supplement.

  2. In Israel, employees are entitled to pension contributions only during the period of their paid maternity leave.

  3. We tested for differences in the distribution of our focal variables within each period. The comparison showed no significant differences (data available from the author/s).

  4. The Israeli CBS defines head of household by amount of economic activity, so that the person who contributes more hours of work per week is considered the head. In households where no one works for pay, the head of household is self-identified.

  5. The calculation was based on men and women heads of household, 75 years old, with high school education, who did not work for pay, had no additional earners in the household, had income from pensions and were not born in Israel.


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This study was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, grant no. 3-14765.

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Correspondence to Lilach Lurie.

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Lilach Lurie A member of the Herczeg Institute on Aging

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Lurie, L., Stier, H. Marital Status and Gender Inequality in Household Income Among Older Adults in Israel: Changes Over time. Soc Indic Res 159, 801–820 (2022).

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