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The Impact of Employer Matching on Savings Plan Participation under Automatic Enrollment

  • John Beshears
  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte C. Madrian

Existing research has documented the large impact that automatic enrollment has on savings plan participation. All the companies examined in these studies, however, have combined automatic enrollment with an employer match. This raises a question about how effective automatic enrollment would be without a direct financial inducement not to opt out of participation. This paper's results suggest that the match has only a modest impact on opt-out rates. We estimate that moving from a typical matching structure - a match of 50% up to 6% of pay contributed - to no match would reduce participation under automatic enrollment at six months after plan eligibility by 5 to 11 percentage points. Our analysis includes a firm that switched from a match to a non-contingent employer contribution. This firm's experience suggests that non-contingent employer contributions only weakly crowd out employee participation.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13352.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Publication status: published as The Impact of Employer Matching on Savings Plan Participation under Automatic Enrollment , John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian. in Research Findings in the Economics of Aging , Wise. 2010
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13352
Note: AG EFG LS PE
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  1. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer matching and 401(k) saving: Evidence from the health and retirement study," NBER Chapters, in: Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), Public Policy and Retirement, pages 1920-1943 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Working Papers 8655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bassett, William F. & Fleming, Michael J. & Rodrigues, Anthony P., 1998. "How Workers Use 401(k) Plans: The Participation, Contribution, and Withdrawal Decisions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 2), pages 263-89, June.
  4. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
  5. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "The importance of default options for retirement saving outcomes: evidence from the United States," CeRP Working Papers 43, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  6. Leslie E. Papke, 1995. "Participation in and Contributions to 401(k) Pension Plans: Evidence from Plan Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 311-325.
  7. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "For Better or For Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Working Papers 8651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2005. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000488, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1311-1346.
  10. James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2008. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(K) Plans," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2519, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Jul 2009.
  11. Papke, Leslie E. & Poterba, James M., 1995. "Survey evidence on employer match rates and employee saving behavior in 401(k) plans," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 313-317, September.
  12. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Saving in 401(k) Plans," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000649, UCLA Department of Economics.
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