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401(k)s and household saving: new evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

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  • Karen M. Pence
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    Abstract

    Although households have invested billions in 401(k) accounts, these balances may not be new saving if workers invest money that they would have saved in the program's absence. In this paper, I assess the effect of the 401(k) program on saving by comparing changes in the wealth of 401(k) eligible and ineligible households over the 1989-1998 period using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). This comparison may yield misleading estimates of the effect of 401(k)s on saving if eligible households have a higher taste for saving than ineligible households or if they begin the 1989-1998 period with greater amounts of wealth. I adjust for these potential biases by constructing subjective measures of saving taste from questions on the SCF and by transforming the wealth measure with the inverse hyperbolic sine. Incorporating these adjustments suggests that 401(k)s have little to no effect on saving.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2002-6.

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    Date of creation: 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2002-6

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    Keywords: Pensions ; Retirement ; Saving and investment;

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    References

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    1. Arthur B. Kennickell & Annika E. Sunden, 1997. "Pensions, social security, and the distribution of wealth," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-55, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Richard T. Curtin & Thomas Juster & James N. Morgan, 1989. "Survey Estimates of Wealth: An Assessment of Quality," NBER Chapters, in: The Measurement of Saving, Investment, and Wealth, pages 473-552 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1996. "The Illusory Effects of Saving Incentives on Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 113-138, Fall.
    4. F. Thomas Juster & Kathleen A. Kuester, 1990. "Differences in the measurement of wealth, wealth inequality, and wealth composition obtained from alternative U.S. wealth surveys," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 116, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1994. "Do Saving Incentives Work?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 85-180.
    6. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan S. Skinner, 1996. "Assessing the Effectiveness of Saving Incentives," NBER Working Papers 5686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Leslie E. Papke, 1999. "Are 401(k) Plans Replacing Other Employer-Provided Pensions? Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(2), pages 346-368.
    8. Martha Starr-McCluer & Annika Sunden, 1999. "Workers' knowledge of their pension coverage: a reevaluation," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-05, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    9. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1993. "Do 401(k) Contributions Crowd Out Other Persoanl Saving?," NBER Working Papers 4391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Buchinsky, Moshe, 1995. "Estimating the asymptotic covariance matrix for quantile regression models a Monte Carlo study," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 303-338, August.
    11. Robert E. Lipsey & Helen Stone Tice, 1989. "The Measurement of Saving, Investment, and Wealth," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lips89-1.
    12. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1996. "How Retirement Saving Programs Increase Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 91-112, Fall.
    13. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1996. "Personal Retirement Saving Programs and Asset Accumulation: Reconciling the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5599, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
    15. Leslie E. Papke & Mitchell A. Petersen & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Do 401(k) Plans Replace Other Employer-Provided Pensions?," NBER Chapters, in: Advances in the Economics of Aging, pages 219-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale, 2000. "The Effects of 401(k) Plans on Household Wealth: Differences Across Earnings Groups," NBER Working Papers 8032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Gene Amromin, 2005. "Precautionary savings motives and tax efficiency of household portfolios: an empirical analysis," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-01, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Geng Li & Paul A. Smith, 2008. "Borrowing from yourself: 401(k) loans and household balance sheets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2008-42, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Eugene Amromin & Jennifer Huang & Clemens Sialm, 2006. "The tradeoff between mortgage prepayments and tax-deferred retirement savings," Working Paper Series WP-06-05, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    4. Fisher, Patti J. & Montalto, Catherine P., 2010. "Effect of saving motives and horizon on saving behaviors," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 92-105, February.

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