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How Do 401(k)s Affect Saving? Evidence from Changes in 401(k) Eligibility

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  • Alexander M. Gelber

Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of 401(k) eligibility on saving. To address the possibility that eligibility correlates across individuals with their unobserved tastes for saving, I examine a change in eligibility: some individuals are initially ineligible for their 401(k) but become eligible when they have worked at their firm long enough. I find that eligibility raises 401(k) balances. Other financial assets and net worth respond insignificantly to eligibility, but the confidence intervals do not rule out substantial responses. In response to eligibility, IRA assets increase, consistent with a "crowd-in" hypothesis, and accumulation of cars decreases.(JEL D14, E21, J26)

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander M. Gelber, 2011. "How Do 401(k)s Affect Saving? Evidence from Changes in 401(k) Eligibility," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 103-122, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:3:y:2011:i:4:p:103-22
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.3.4.103
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 1994. "401(k) Plans and Tax-Deferred Saving," NBER Chapters,in: Studies in the Economics of Aging, pages 105-142 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David A. Wise & Steven F. Venti, 1993. "The Wealth of Cohorts: Retirement Saving and the Changing Assets of Older Americans," NBER Working Papers 4600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan S. Skinner, 1996. "Assessing the Effectiveness of Saving Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 73-90, Fall.
    4. 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.
    5. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(K) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 275-298, June.
    6. Orazio P. Attanasio & Thomas DeLeire, 2002. "The Effect Of Individual Retirement Accounts On Household Consumption And National Saving," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(6), pages 504-538, July.
    7. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan S. Skinner, 1996. "Assessing the Effectiveness of Saving Incentives," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 53540, September.
    8. Patrick J. Bayer & B. Douglas Bernheim & John Karl Scholz, 2009. "The Effects Of Financial Education In The Workplace: Evidence From A Survey Of Employers," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(4), pages 605-624, October.
    9. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    10. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 2002. "Taxation and saving," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 18, pages 1173-1249 Elsevier.
    11. Karen E. Dynan, 1993. "How prudent are consumers?," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 135, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. 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.
    13. Benjamin, Daniel J., 2003. "Does 401(k) eligibility increase saving?: Evidence from propensity score subclassification," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1259-1290, May.
    14. Dynan, Karen E, 1993. "How Prudent Are Consumers?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 1104-1113, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Axel Börsch-Supan & Tabea Bucher-Koenen & Michela Coppola & Bettina Lamla, 2015. "Savings In Times Of Demographic Change: Lessons From The German Experience," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 807-829, September.
    2. Alexander Gelber & Matthew Weinzierl, 2012. "Equalizing Outcomes vs. Equalizing Opportunities: Optimal Taxation when Children's Abilities Depend on Parents' Resources," Harvard Business School Working Papers 13-014, Harvard Business School, revised Mar 2014.
    3. Bradley T. Heim & Ithai Z. Lurie, 2014. "Taxes, Income, And Retirement Savings: Differences By Permanent And Transitory Income," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(3), pages 592-617, July.
    4. Alexander M. Gelber & Matthew C. Weinzierl, 2012. "Equalizing Outcomes and Equalizing Opportunities: Optimal Taxation when Children's Abilities Depend on Parents' Resources," NBER Working Papers 18332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. William G. Gale & Samuel Brown, 2013. "Tax Reform for Growth, Equity, and Revenue," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(6), pages 721-754, November.
    6. 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.
    7. Kast, Felipe & Meier, Stephan & Pomeranz, Dina, 2012. "Under-Savers Anonymous: Evidence on Self-Help Groups and Peer Pressure as a Savings Commitment Device," IZA Discussion Papers 6311, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Anne-Marie Brook, 2014. "Options to Narrow New Zealand’s Saving – Investment Imbalance," Treasury Working Paper Series 14/17, New Zealand Treasury.
    9. Kirk Doran & Alexander Gelber & Adam Isen, 2014. "The Effects of High-Skilled Immigration Policy on Firms: Evidence from H-1B Visa Lotteries," NBER Working Papers 20668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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