Changing Lifetime Earnings of Women: Implications for Economic Security

Sharmila Choudhury

The purpose of this paper is to use lifetime earnings to study the economic security of women workers. Lifetime earnings provide a more complete picture of economic well-being than earnings at a point in time. We analyze a unique dataset on lifetime earnings (Social Security Administration's Continuous Work History Sample for 1983 and 1999) in which we separate workers into continuous and intermittent to evaluate the distinct gains made by workers with dissimilar attachment to the labor force. We compare growth in cross-sectional annual earnings with lifetime earnings of women workers, examine inequality in lifetime earnings, and study trends in male-female lifetime earnings ratios. We examine more closely the issue of who really are the low lifetime earners--are these women who are steady low wage workers or are these women who have several years of interruptions in their worklives? The answer could have important implications for Social Security reform.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 96: Gender and Earnings