Last Thursday, the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) released new research on how the gender pay gap affects women in retirement. In its findings, NIRS discovered that “older women receive about 80 percent of the retirement income older men receive” in “a disparity that mirrors the gender pay gap.” 

NIRS also explored some of the reasons why women receive less retirement income than men and found that women generally earn less throughout their careers, that women 80 years and older are more likely to be widows, and that caregiving disproportionately impacts women compared to men. 

For example, women are more likely to provide care than men for children, aging parents, or their spouses (the report mentions that 60 percent of caregivers are women as they are more likely to leave the labor force to care for relatives). Female caregivers earn much less than those who do not have to provide care (the median retirement wealth of a female caregiver 50 years and older is $65,278 and for a female non-caregiver is $101,311). Furthermore, men who are caregivers earn much more than female caregivers, as the median retirement wealth for a male caregiver 50 years and older is $154,666, more than double the median for a female caregiver. 

The report highlights that “women constitute two-thirds of part-time workers.” This affects their retirement security because part-time employees are less likely to be offered a retirement savings plan through work compared to full-time employees. 

One of the study’s other major findings was that pensions supported middle-class women in retirement. The survey examined five groups of women who were 65 and older based on their median household income. It found that women who earned between $40,000 to $79,999 a year in retirement received higher proportions of their income from pensions compared to the highest and lowest earning groups. 

As policymakers consider how to address the gender pay gap in retirement, strengthening public pensions is one way they can ensure female public employees are able to retire with the economic security they deserve after a lifetime of serving the public.