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Incorporating Employee Heterogeneity into Default Rules for Retirement Plan Selection

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  • Gopi Shah Goda
  • Colleen Flaherty Manchester

Abstract

We study the effect of incorporating heterogeneity into default rules by examining the choice between retirement plans at a firm which transitioned from a defined benefit (DB) to a defined contribution (DC) plan. The default plan for existing employees varied discontinuously depending on their age. Employing regression discontinuity techniques, we find that the default increased the probability of enrollment in the default plan by 60 percentage points. We develop a framework to solve for the optimal default rule analytically and numerically and find that considerable welfare gains are possible if defaults vary by observable characteristics.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16099.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Publication status: published as Gopi Shah Goda & Colleen Flaherty Manchester, 2013. "Incorporating Employee Heterogeneity into Default Rules for Retirement Plan Selection," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 198-235.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16099

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  1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Scott J. Weisbenner, 2009. "Who Chooses Defined Contribution Plans?," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 131-161 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Stefano DellaVigna, 2007. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," NBER Working Papers 13420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
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  7. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James M. Poterba & John B. Shoven & Clemens Sialm, 2000. "Asset Location for Retirement Savers," NBER Working Papers 7991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Zvi Bodie & Alan J. Marcus & Robert C. Merton, 1988. "Defined Benefit versus Defined Contribution Pension Plans: What are the Real Trade-offs?," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 139-162 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "Are Empowerment and Education Enough? Underdiversification in 401(k) Plans," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(2), pages 151-214.
  13. Miles S. Kimball & Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2009. "Risk Preferences in the PSID: Individual Imputations and Family Covariation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 363-68, May.
  14. Raj Chetty, 2003. "A New Method of Estimating Risk Aversion," NBER Working Papers 9988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "THE POWER OF SUGGESTION: INERTIA IN 401(k) PARTICIPATION AND SAVINGS BEHAVIOR," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187, November.
  16. Daniel G. Goldstein & Eric J. Johnson & William F. Sharpe, 2008. "Choosing Outcomes versus Choosing Products: Consumer-Focused Retirement Investment Advice," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 440-456, 08.
  17. Olivia S. Mitchell & Gary R. Mottola & Stephen P. Utkus & Takeshi Yamaguchi, 2009. "Default, Framing and Spillover Effects: The Case of Lifecycle Funds in 401(k) Plans," NBER Working Papers 15108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2011. "Behavioral Economics Perspectives on Public Sector Pension Plans," NBER Working Papers 16728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gopi Shah Goda & Colleen Flaherty Manchester & Aaron Sojourner, 2012. "What Will My Account Really Be Worth? An Experiment on Exponential Growth Bias and Retirement Saving," NBER Working Papers 17927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gopi Shah Goda & Damon Jones & Colleen Flaherty Manchester, 2013. "Retirement Plan Type and Employee Mobility: The Role of Selection and Incentive Effects," NBER Working Papers 18902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2014. "When Consumers Do Not Make an Active Decision: Dynamic Default Rules and their Equilibrium Effects," NBER Working Papers 20127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Dean Karlan, Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan, Jonathan Zinman, 2013. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda-Working Paper 346," Working Papers 346, Center for Global Development.

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