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Highlights

Women aged 65 and over will account for a growing segment of the U.S. population over the next several decades. Despite increases in women's workforce behavior in the past 65 years, elderly women have persistently high rates of poverty. Thus, it is important to understand the differences between men's and women's retirement income, and how women may fare given future reforms to Social Security and pensions. GAO was asked to examine (1) how women's retirement income compares with men's and the reasons for differences; (2) how certain life events such as divorce, widowhood, and workforce interruptions affect women's retirement income; and (3) the possible effect on women's retirement income of certain changes to Social Security and pensions that seek to mitigate the effects of differences in workforce participation patterns. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed the relevant literature, interviewed academics and other retirement experts, and used a microsimulation model to project future retirement income. GAO provided a draft of this report to the departments of Labor and Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Administration. Cognizant agency officials provided technical comments which were incorporated as appropriate. GAO is making no recommendations.

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