Three New Reports Highlight Economic Gains and Challenges Among Women Since Title IX’s Enactment

Newly released data from the sixth annual Personal Finance Index examines financial literacy among five generations of U.S. women

NEW YORK (June 23, 2022)—Women have made substantial economic progress in the last 50 years but still face substantial gaps in financial knowledge and retirement readiness, three new reports show.

The TIAA Institute is releasing the insights to mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, which prohibited sex-based discrimination in higher education.

The first report, “2022 P-Fin Index data brief: Financial literacy among U.S. women,” contains new findings from the annual Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index), a joint initiative of the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University School of Business. The report documents financial knowledge levels of U.S adult women, both relative to men and across generations.

In general, women tend to have lower financial literacy than men: women correctly answered 45% of the P-Fin Index questions, on average, compared to 55% for men. Looking across women, financial knowledge tends to be lower among younger individuals. While baby boomer women correctly answered 51% of the P-Fin Index questions, on average, this figure was 41% and 38% among Gen Y and Gen Z women, respectively. Comprehending risk is a particular weakness in women’s financial knowledge across generations.

“Investing is the aspect of financial literacy with the largest gender gap, but notable differences also exist in borrowing, saving and insuring,” said Anne Ollen, who oversees the TIAA Institute’s programs and operations. “This underlines the importance of equalizing basic financial education in school and in the workplace.”

The report also documents the strong relationship between financial knowledge and financial well-being among women. Compared to women with very high levels of financial knowledge, those with very low financial literacy are:

  • 5 times more likely to have difficulty making ends meet.
  • 3 times more likely to be debt constrained.
  • 3 times more likely to be unable to cope with a $2,000 financial shock.
  • 5 times more likely to spend 10 or more hours per week on issues related to personal finances.

The second report, “Trends in the retirement readiness gender gap among TIAA participants,” by Brent Davis and Andrew Gellert, both researchers with the TIAA Institute, outlines the gender gap in retirement readiness both within the general U.S. population and for TIAA participants. When looking at funding adequacy and target income replacement, the authors found a significant decrease in the gender gap in recent years.  For example, among TIAA participants, the gender gap in median contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans decreased from 34% in 2012 to 27% in 2020. Among TIAA annuitants the gender gap in median monthly life annuity payouts decreased from 50% in 2012 to 32% in 2020. In the general population, women working in the for-profit sector contributed 10.5% of their salary compared to 11.2% for men.

“There are still considerable gaps in retirement readiness between men and women, but there has been noticeable progress over the last 50 years, due largely to the advances women have made in the workforce,” Ollen said. “Policies that support paid parental and family leave and that help close gender pay discrepancies could narrow the gap even further, giving women more opportunities for a financially secure retirement.”

The final report, “After 50 years of progress, how prepared are women for retirement?” by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, looks at women’s retirement readiness in the context of labor market and demographic changes. The analysis draws from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of people over age 50 conducted biennially since 1992, supplemented with earnings data from the U.S. Social Security Administration. The authors find that while the gender wage gap persists, women’s progress in the workforce has enhanced their economic status, particularly for women who never married or mostly stayed single.

For instance, women who have spent most of their lives married look worse off than other women in terms of retirement preparedness compared to earlier cohorts, due in large part to the declining economic fortunes of their husbands. Mostly-single and never-married women have gained ground on those who are mostly-married due to the latter group’s declining eligibility for Social Security’s spousal benefit. The overall patterns are similar for both White and Black women.

For all three reports, please visit the TIAA Institute Title IX webpage.


Press contact: TIAA Media Team, 888-200-4062, Media@TIAA.org.


About the TIAA Institute
The TIAA Institute helps advance the ways individuals and institutions plan for financial security and organizational effectiveness. The institute conducts in-depth research, provides access to a network of thought leaders, and enables those it serves to anticipate trends, plan future strategies and maximize opportunities for success. For more information about the TIAA Institute, visit www.tiaainstitute.org.

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About TIAA
TIAA is a leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions to millions of people and thousands of institutions. It is the #1 not-for-profit retirement market provider , paid more than $6.4 billion in lifetime income to retired clients in 2021 and has nearly $1.3 trillion in assets under management (as of 3/31/2022). 

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