The Cost of Widowhood: A Matching Study of Process and Event

TitleThe Cost of Widowhood: A Matching Study of Process and Event
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationForthcoming
AuthorsVan Winkle, Z, Leopold, T
JournalSocArXiv Papers
Keywordsdepression, economic wellbeing, life course, Widowhood

Widowhood is a common life transition entailing far-reaching consequences. We examine the consequences of widowhood in a novel way by assessing the consequences of bereavement for meaningful comparison groups allowing us to evaluate the impact of bereavement before and after the event. The analysis of the cost of widowhood for mental health and economic wellbeing focuses on two scenarios: unexpected and expected widowhood. The first scenario models a two-period process in which effects of widowhood occur only after the event. The second models a three-period process in which effects of widowhood also occur before spousal loss. US Health and Retirement Study data and a combination of random-coefficient modelling, propensity score matching, and regressions are used to estimate the consequences of widowhood from ten years before to six years after spousal loss. Results on mental health show a slow but full recovery for unexpected widowhood, but larger and lasting declines for expected widowhood. Findings on economic wellbeing show sizable losses for expected widowhood due to the economic cost of the pre-widowhood period. In sum, the impact of widowhood is smaller for unexpected compared to expected events. Our approach advances knowledge about spousal loss, but also research on life events more generally.

Citation Key12544