Women's Marital Trajectories and the Accumulation of Pension Rights in Germany and the U.S.

Anika Rasner, German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Employment-centered pension schemes favor continuous employment careers with (above) average earnings. Typically, men benefit from this pension design, whereas women with different lifecycle work and family choices are structurally disadvantaged. In the past, low pension rights accrued by women were no reason for concern, because they were assumed to share resources with their husband. Increased divorce rates end this resource sharing during working life, but also in retirement. Using two unique datasets that augment longitudinal survey data with administrative pension records, this study investigates interdependencies between marital trajectories and the accumulation of pension rights of women in Germany and the U.S. Applying cluster analysis, this paper compares retirement outcomes across similar marital trajectories in both countries. Results show how welfare states mediate the impact marital trajectories have on pension building. The strong male breadwinner/female caretaker notion makes German women more vulnerable to marital shocks than their U.S. counterparts.

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Presented in Session 61: Public Policy and Families Around the World