Abstract

Using formulas which measure life cycle characteristics of widowhood as a function of life table survivorship and age at marriage, we illustrate changes in patterns of widowhood and widowerhood since 1950, as well as differences by race, by age of bride and of groom, and by age differences between spouses. Although the current inequality in the risks of widowhood and widowerhood for the average couple is mostly due to sex differences in mortality, a one year age difference between spouses has about the same impact as does a one year difference in life expectancy. Calculations based on current distributions of age of groom by age of bride indicate that the older the age of groom, the greater the age difference between spouses and the higher the likelihood of a woman outliving her husband: the typical groom who marries in his fifties faces a 4 to 1 chance that he will be outlived by his spouse.

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