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Gender inequality from beyond the grave: intra-household distribution and wellbeing after spousal loss


The present article integrates research on spousal loss among older people and research on intra-household income distribution and relates pre-loss intra-household distribution of incomes to post-loss wellbeing. Data are drawn from the Swedish Panel Survey of Ageing and the Elderly (PSAE) and consist of couples that were married in the mid-1990s (N=1,503) and that were either still married (N=1,262) or who had experienced spousal loss (N=241) in 2002–03. The results showed that large intra-household pre-loss income differences increased the occurrence of psycho-social problems among both widows and widowers. Hence, unequal intra-household distribution of resources makes the coping process harder for both men and women. It was also shown that unequal pre-loss distribution of incomes affected a measure of global wellbeing among widowers. Widows suffered to a greater degree from economic difficulties, but these difficulties were not related to pre-loss distribution of incomes. Thus, the overall results showed that a gendered labour market that generates an unequal intra-household distribution of incomes has repercussions not only for gender equality among intact households, but also for the coping process of both widows and widowers.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Björn Halleröd, Department of Sociology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden. E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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