IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

401(k) Participant Behavior in a Volatile Economy


  • Barbara A. Butrica
  • Karen Elizabeth Smith


The booms and busts of the late 1990s and 2000s have taken 401(k) plan participants on a rollercoaster ride. Using data from administrative tax records and household surveys, this paper examines how participants responded to these periods of economic expansions and contractions by documenting changes in 401(k) participation, contributions, and investment allocation from 1990 through 2010. Controlling for earnings, job changes, and other household factors, we show that 401(k) participation and contributions decline during recessions. The Great Recession could lower the 401(k) assets of the typical 30-year-old by as much as 9 percent at age 62.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara A. Butrica & Karen Elizabeth Smith, 2012. "401(k) Participant Behavior in a Volatile Economy," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2012-24, Center for Retirement Research, revised Nov 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2012-24

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Teresa Ghilarducci & Joelle Saad-Lessler & Gayle Reznik, 2017. "Relative Wages in Aging America: Defined Contribution Wealth Inequality: Role of Earnings Shocks, Portfolio Choice, and Employer Contributions," SCEPA working paper series. SCEPA's main areas of research are macroeconomic policy, inequality and poverty, and globalization. 2017-06, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), The New School.
    2. Simonovits, András & Király, Balázs, 2016. "Megtakarítás és adózás egy önkéntes nyugdíjrendszerben - ágensalapú modellezés
      [Saving and taxation in a voluntary pension system: Towards an agent-based model]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(5), pages 473-500.
    3. James M. Poterba, 2014. "Retirement Security in an Aging Society," NBER Working Papers 19930, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2012-24. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Amy Grzybowski) or (Christopher F Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.