The Gender Wealth Gap: Structural and Material Constraints and Implications for Later Life
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Wealth is an important measure of economic well-being, because while income captures the current state of inequality, wealth has the potential for examining accumulated and historically structured inequality. This presentation documents the extent of gender inequality in wealth for Canadian women and men aged 45 and older. The analysis uses data from the 1999 Canadian Survey of Financial Security, a large nationally representative survey of household wealth in Canada. Wealth is measured by total net worth as measured by total assets minus debt. We test two general hypotheses to account for gender differences in wealth. The differential exposure hypothesis suggests that women report less wealth accumulation because of their reduced access to the material and social conditions of life that foster economic security. The differential vulnerability hypothesis suggests that women report lower levels of wealth because they receive differential returns to material and social conditions of their lives. Support is found for both hypotheses. Much of the gender differences in wealth can be explained by the gendering of work and family roles that restricts women's ability to build up assets over the life course. But beyond this, there are significant gender interaction effects that indicate that women are further penalized by their returns to participation in family life, their health and where they live. When women do work, net of other factors, they are better able to accumulate wealth than their male counterparts.
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