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Are firms or workers behind the shift away from DB pension plan?

  • Stephanie Aaronson
  • Julia Coronado
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    One of the most striking changes in the composition of household retirement savings over the past 20 years has been the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans. Understanding the factors underlying this shift is important for determining its impact on retirement saving adequacy. Yet previous research, which has mostly focused on factors affecting all firms, such as regulation or increased longevity, has yielded little consensus. In this study we estimate the contribution of changing workforce characteristics and production environments to the shift in pension coverage. Our findings suggest that, while aggregate factors explain a large part of the movement, changes in worker demand, due to evolving workforce characteristics, also contributed notably. On the supply side, we find support for the theory that technical change has reduced the value of DB plans. These supply and demand factors are particularly important for explaining the significant variation in cross-industry trends in pension coverage.

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    File URL: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2005/200517/200517abs.html
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    File URL: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2005/200517/200517pap.pdf
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    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2005-17.

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    Date of creation: 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2005-17
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    1. John M. Abowd & Paul A. Lengermann & Kevin L. McKinney, 2002. "The Measurement of Human Capital in the U.S. Economy," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2002-09, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, revised Mar 2003.
    2. Marianne Bertrand, 2004. "From the Invisible Handshake to the Invisible Hand? How Import Competition Changes the Employment Relationship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 723-766, October.
    3. Leslie E. Papke & Mitchell Petersen & James M. Poterba, 1993. "Did 401(k) Plans Replace Other Employer Provided Pensions?," NBER Working Papers 4501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. David Neumark, 2000. "Changes in Job Stability and Job Security: A Collective Effort to Untangle, Reconcile, and Interpret the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Coronado, Julia Lynn & Copeland, Philip C., 2004. "Cash balance pension plan conversions and the new economy," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 297-314, November.
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