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Do Employer Pension Contributions Reflect Employee Preferences? Evidence from a Retirement Savings Reform in Denmark

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  • Itzik Fadlon
  • Jessica Laird
  • Torben Heien Nielsen

Abstract

This paper studies how firms set contributions to employer provided 401(k)-type pension plans. Using a reform that decreased the subsidy to contributions to capital pension accounts for Danish workers in the top income tax bracket, we provide strong evidence that employers' contributions are based on their employees' savings preferences. We find an immediate decrease in employer contributions to capital accounts, whose magnitude increased in the share of employees directly affected by the reform. This response was large relative to average employee responses within private IRA-type plans and was accompanied by a similar magnitude shift of employer contributions to annuity accounts.

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  • Itzik Fadlon & Jessica Laird & Torben Heien Nielsen, 2016. "Do Employer Pension Contributions Reflect Employee Preferences? Evidence from a Retirement Savings Reform in Denmark," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 196-216, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:8:y:2016:i:3:p:196-216
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.20150015
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
    2. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2011. "Myopia, redistribution and pensions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 165-175, February.
    3. Kerstin Roeder, 2014. "Optimal taxes and pensions with myopic agents," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 42(3), pages 597-618, March.
    4. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674.
    5. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Søren Leth-Petersen & Torben Heien Nielsen & Tore Olsen, 2014. "Active vs. Passive Decisions and Crowd-Out in Retirement Savings Accounts: Evidence from Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1141-1219.
    6. Paul Bingley & Nabanita Datta Gupta & Peder J. Pedersen, 2007. "Fiscal Implications of Reforms in Retirement Systems in Denmark," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: Fiscal Implications of Reform, pages 119-154 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Itzik Fadlon & David Laibson, 2017. "Paternalism and Pseudo-Rationality," NBER Working Papers 23620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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.
    9. Justine S. Hastings & Brigitte C. Madrian & William L. Skimmyhorn, 2013. "Financial Literacy, Financial Education, and Economic Outcomes," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 347-373, May.
    10. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
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    12. Stephanie Aaronson & Julia Lynn Coronado, 2005. "Are firms or workers behind the shift away from DB pension plan?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-17, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US).
    13. Marianne A. Hilgert & Jeanne M. Hogarth & Sondra G. Beverly, 2003. "Household financial management: the connection between knowledge and behavior," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jul, pages 309-322.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

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