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Race and Women’s Income Trajectories: Employment, Marriage, and Income Security over the Life Course


Willson, Andrea E. (2003). Race and Women's Income Trajectories: Employment, Marriage, and Income Security over the Life Course. Social Problems, 50(1), 87-110.


This article examines the contribution of employment and marriage to the income security of women as they age, and assesses differences in the process of building income security for African American and white women. Using hierarchical linear modeling and data from the National Longitudinal Survey's Mature Women Cohort, I focus on individual-level trajectories of income over time, their determinants, and how they differ across subgroups. The results demonstrate the complexity of change in women's income security over the life course and the important role that race plays in structuring trajectories of income security. Regardless of marital history, employment history, the type of job, or level of education, black women were anchored with substantially lower average adjusted household income and had significantly less growth in this income over time. As they aged, black women experienced less decay in household income; however, their income did not have nearly as far to drop. The pathways that lead from marriage and employment to income security are different for white and black women. The two mechanisms do not operate the same for all women, with white women gaining more security from marriage and black women gaining more security from “good jobs” –those with fringe benefits–to which they often lack access.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Problems


Willson, Andrea E.