Which pension?: women, risk and pension choice

Kay Peggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates women's perceptions of choice and risk in the field of pensions. It extends on a paper published in a recent edition of this Journal in which Alan Aldridge applied Pierre Bourdieu's notions of cultural capital and habitus to the field of personal finance. Since the late 1980s the marketisation of pensions has resulted in an expansion of pension options. According to Anthony Giddens the expansion of choice is one of the positive aspects of living in a ‘risk society’. However, the expansion of pension choice has passed pension risks onto consumers. Using qualitative interviews this paper investigates the perceptions of 45 employed women aged 40–59 of the risks associated with choosing a pension. At the theoretical level the paper seeks to demonstrate the need to qualify notions of reflexive decision-making put forward by Giddens by emphasising the role of habitual action in decision-making, as put forward by Bourdieu. The paper shows that material circumstances, cultural capital, extent and quality of pension information and habitus affect perceptions of pension choice and pension risks. The paper concludes that the expansion of pension choice has been, in many ways, negative rather than positive and thus is likely to lead to increasing poverty among many women in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-364
Number of pages16
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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