For many American women, retirement is “the American dream turned upside down,” with far higher poverty rates than for retired men, far lower income and measlier pensions, the Older Women’s League declared Wednesday in a “Mother’s Day report” on the economic status of older women.
“For too many women, the path to poverty in old age begins the first day of work in low-wage, no-benefit jobs,” said OWL president Johnetta Marshall. And later on, she said, during the years that women take off from paid work to do the hard and crucial tasks of bearing and raising children, they earn no job promotions, no raises, no Social Security credits and no pension rights.
“For millions of women, a lifetime of work leads to retirement with hardship and deprivation,” Marshall said at a Capitol Hill news conference, flanked by Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who pledged to work for solutions to these problems.
As the three ticked off the statistics found in the study - one elderly woman in four in poverty or nearpoverty, income only three-fifths that of elderly men, private pension recipiency only a third that of elderly men - an article appearing today in the New England Journal of Medicine reinforced their point about the financially strained circumstances of many older women.
Medicare now pays part of the cost of screening mammography for breast cancer every two years. A study found that of women who lacked supplemental insurance to pay for their share of the cost, only 14.4 percent had mammography in 1991 and 1992. By contrast, the test was taken by 44.7 percent of women who had supplemental insurance from their employer, by 40 percent of those who had bought supplemental insurance themselves, and by 24 percent of those so poor that Medicaid chipped in.