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The Effects of Political Competition on the Funding and Generosity of Public-Sector Pension Plans


  • Sutirtha Bagchi


In politically competitive jurisdictions, there can be strong electoral incentives to underfund public pensions in order to keep current taxes low. I examine this hypothesis using panel data for 2,000 municipal pension plans from Pennsylvania. The results suggest that as a municipality becomes more politically competitive, it tends to have pension plans that are less funded, more generous, and use higher interest rates at which to discount future actuarial liabilities. An increase in the level of political competition by one standard deviation leads to a decline in the actuarial funded ratio of about 7â10 percent, an increase in the annual average retirement benefits of about $470â620 per retiree, and an increase in the interest rate for discounting actuarial liabilities of about 5 basis points. Instrumental Variable (IV) estimates generated using demographic characteristics of the population as instruments corroborate these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Sutirtha Bagchi, 2013. "The Effects of Political Competition on the Funding and Generosity of Public-Sector Pension Plans," 2013 Papers pba941, Job Market Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:jmp:jm2013:pba941

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    Cited by:

    1. Solé-Ollé, Albert & Viladecans-Marsal, Elisabet, 2017. "Housing booms and busts and local fiscal policy," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-001, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. Holger Sieg & Daniele Coen-Pirani & Jeffrey Brinkman, 2015. "The Political Economy of Underfunded Municipal Pension Plans," 2015 Meeting Papers 345, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Sutirtha Bagchi, 2017. "The Effects of Political Competition on the Funding of Public-Sector Pension Plans," Villanova School of Business Department of Economics and Statistics Working Paper Series 36, Villanova School of Business Department of Economics and Statistics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets

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