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The Economics of State and Local Pensions


  • Jeffrey R. Brown
  • Robert L. Clark


This paper provides an overview of an economics-based perspective on the financial aspects of state and local public pensions in the U.S. Drawing on the research commissioned for an NBER research program on this topic, we discuss the large degree to which public pension liabilities exceed the assets set aside to fund them. We summarize issues related to the optimality of pre-funding, portfolio allocation, the discounting of liabilities, as well as how plans operate in practice. We also lay out an agenda for future research related to financial aspects of public pensions, retiree health plans for public employees, as well as issues related to plan design and labor market outcomes.
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Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey R. Brown & Robert L. Clark, 2011. "The Economics of State and Local Pensions," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number brow11-1, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberbk:brow11-1
    Note: PE

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09hi4ch92c6 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Altiok, Hasan U. & Jenkins, Glenn P., 2013. "The fiscal burden of the legacy of the civil service pension systems in northern Cyprus," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 92-110, January.
    3. Hasan Altiok & Glenn Jenkins, 2013. "Social security generosity, budgetary deficits and reforms in North Cyprus," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor and Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 218-235.
    4. David G. McCarthy & Po‐Lin Wang, 2022. "Wait your turn: Pension incentives, workplace rules, and labor supply among Philadelphia municipal workers," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 89(4), pages 985-1029, December.
    5. Vincent Touzé, 2011. "Le financement des retraites aux États-Unis," SciencePo Working papers Main hal-03461438, HAL.
    6. Castañeda, Pablo & Castro, Rubén & Fajnzylber, Eduardo & Medina, Juan Pablo & Villatoro, Félix, 2021. "Saving for the future: Evaluating the sustainability and design of Pension Reserve Funds," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).
    7. Vincent Touzé, 2011. "Le financement des retraites aux États-Unis," Post-Print hal-03461438, HAL.
    8. Lekniute, Z. & Beetsma, R.M.W.J. & Ponds, E.H.M., 2014. "A Value-Based Approach to the Redesign of US State Pension Plans," Other publications TiSEM 3156027d-33c6-4045-963a-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    9. Hasan U. Altiok & Glenn Jenkins, "undated". "The Pension Traps of Northern Cyprus," Development Discussion Papers 2012-03, JDI Executive Programs.
    10. Dashle Kelley, 2014. "The political economy of unfunded public pension liabilities," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(1), pages 21-38, January.
    11. Joelle H. Fong & John Piggott & Michael Sherris, 2012. "Public Sector Pension Funds in Australia: Longevity Selection and Liabilities," Working Papers 201217, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales.
    12. Hasan U. Altiok & Glenn P. Jenkins, 2013. "Social security generosity, budgetary deficits and reforms in North Cyprus," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 218-235, June.
    13. Hasan U. Altiok & Glenn Jenkins, 2012. "Social Security Reforms in Northern Cyprus: Are they Fiscally Balanced and Socially Equitable?," Development Discussion Papers 2012-02, JDI Executive Programs.
    14. Miller, Steven R. & Deller, Steven C. & Stallmann, Judith I., 2017. "Potential Rural Impacts of Pension Reductions," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258126, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    15. Vincent Touzé, 2011. "Le financement des retraites aux États-Unis. Impact de la crise et tendances de long terme," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(3), pages 63-112.
    16. Godbout, Luc & Trudel, Yves & St-Cerny, Suzie, 2013. "Le régime de rentes du Québec : le rendement différencié selon l’année de prise de la retraite de 1968 jusqu’en 2056," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 89(2), pages 89-113, Juin.
    17. Latifa AITOUTOUHEN & Faris HAMZA, 2016. "Financial and Econometric Study of the Sustainability and Evaluation of Scenarios of Reforms for the Civil Regime of Moroccan," Turkish Economic Review, KSP Journals, vol. 3(4), pages 652-667, December.
    18. Srichander Ramaswamy, 2012. "The sustainability of pension schemes," BIS Working Papers 368, Bank for International Settlements.

    Book Chapters

    The following chapters of this book are listed in IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • G1 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets


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