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The Impact of Longevity Improvements on U.S. Corporate Defined Benefit Pension Plans


  • John Kiff
  • Michael Kisser
  • Mauricio Soto
  • S. E Oppers


This paper provides the first empirical assessment of the impact of life expectancy assumptions on the liabilities of private U.S. defined benefit (DB) pension plans. Using detailed actuarial and financial information provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, we construct a longevity variable for each pension plan and then measure the impact of varying life expectancy assumptions across plans and over time on pension plan liabilities. The results indicate that each additional year of life expectancy increases pension liabilities by about 3 to 4 percent. This effect is not only statistically highly significant but also economically: each year of additional life expectancy would increase private U.S. DB pension plan liabilities by as much as $84 billion.

Suggested Citation

  • John Kiff & Michael Kisser & Mauricio Soto & S. E Oppers, 2012. "The Impact of Longevity Improvements on U.S. Corporate Defined Benefit Pension Plans," IMF Working Papers 12/170, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:12/170

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pablo Antolin, 2007. "Longevity Risk and Private Pensions," Financial Market Trends, OECD Publishing, vol. 2007(1), pages 107-128.
    2. Dushi, Irena & Friedberg, Leora & Webb, Tony, 2010. "The impact of aggregate mortality risk on defined benefit pension plans," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(04), pages 481-503, October.
    3. Joelle H. Y. Fong & Olivia S. Mitchell & Benedict S. K. Koh, 2011. "Longevity Risk Management in Singapore's National Pension System," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 78(4), pages 961-982, December.
    4. Robert Novy‐Marx & Joshua Rauh, 2011. "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(4), pages 1211-1249, August.
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