The average income for American women age 65 and older is 25 per cent lower than for American men in the same age group, according to a new study published by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

As a consequence of this retirement income gap, women are 80 per cent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older. The research, which is based on an analysis of 2012 data from the U.S. Census, also found that men’s income advantage widens to 44 per cent by age 80 and older, with women aged 75 to 79 three times more likely to fall below the poverty line.

A similar study conducted recently by the Broadbent Institute found poverty rates for single seniors in Canada were also high, especially among women, who have a poverty rate of nearly 30 per cent. The Canadian study also showed single female seniors were more likely to receive guaranteed income supplement payments (between 44 per cent and 48 per cent) compared to single male seniors (between 31 per cent and 37 per cent).

Read: Canadians’ retirement savings ‘wholly inadequate’

“It is well documented that the nation faces a retirement savings crisis, but the pain is particularly severe for women because we need a bigger retirement nest egg than men thanks to our longer life expectancy,” said Diane Oakley, executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security and co-author of the U.S. report. “This new data is troubling – it shows that a woman’s nest egg is substantially smaller than a man’s and that we’re not making real headway toward closing the retirement gender gap.

“The fact that women over 65 are 80 per cent more likely than men to fall into poverty in their retirement years is tragic and should be a call to action for policymakers. Women are financially disadvantaged because we still earn less than men and we typically take time out of our careers for caregiving – both of which reduce our ability to prepare for retirement.”

Read: U.S. men save more for retirement than women: study

In 2014, according to the U.S. study, the median amount accumulated in defined contribution or 401k-type retirement assets was USD$36,875 for men and USD$24,446 for women, with men receiving an average $17,856 in pension income and women receiving 33 per cent less per year, at an average of $12,000.

Additionally, the study found that while women tended to work for employers that offered retirement plans, there was often a lack of eligibility due to shorter job tenure or part-time employment. As well, widowed women were twice as likely to be living in poverty than their male counterparts and, if over 70, were likely to rely on social security benefits for a majority of their income.

Read: Growth in life expectancy slows for OAS beneficiaries, study finds

The Canadian study, in the meantime, found female participation rates in pension plans have not increased substantially for almost a decade, with rates remaining between 61 and 63 per cent between 2003 to 2014. It also found that single women had median incomes of $18,000 without a pension and $30,400 with one, while men had a median income of $19,000 and $37,300, respectively.

Both studies offered proposals for alleviating these issues. In the U.S., these include increasing social security benefits for women, implementing automatic enrolment for individual retirement accounts and more development of state-sponsored savings plans. In Canada, proposals included targeted GIS payments, expanded workplace pension plans and enhanced Canada Pension Plan benefits. Since the Broadbent Institute study was published, Canada’s finance ministers reached an agreement on enhancing the CPP.

Read: ‘Exciting time for retirement’ as CPP deal signals premium boost to 5.95%

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

Join us on Twitter

See all comments Recent Comments

Jerry Cyrus:

Isn’t the gap between men and women because of the historical wage gap between men and women during the 1950s, 60s, 70s and possibly the 80s-90s? Recent data suggests the wage gap nearly non-existent and that women outnumber men in the North American workforce( as of 2010).

Please see: (title: Wage Gap Myth Exposed — By Feminists)

Wednesday, July 13 at 1:20 pm | Reply

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required