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Imperfect Knowledge of Pension Plan Type

Author

Listed:
  • Alan L. Gustman
  • Thomas Steinmeier
  • Nahid Tabatabai

Abstract

This paper investigates the reasons for discrepancies between the pension plan type reported by respondents to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and pension plan type obtained from documents produced by their employers, called Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs). The analysis suggests the discrepancies are sizable and are mainly due to misreports by respondents. Discrepancies between respondent and firm reports of plan type are first documented for different years and from different data sources. Changes over time in respondent and firm reports are analyzed for those who say their plans did not change. Plan type from payroll data produced by Watson Wyatt, a pension consulting company, is examined and compared to respondent reports for employees covered by Watson Wyatt plans. The Watson Wyatt payroll data report plan type without error, and yet we find the patterns of discrepancies between respondent and firm provided data are the same as for the HRS employer and respondent data. We also explore other evidence gathered by the HRS in the course of interviews and various experiments. Our findings that errors are mainly the result of misreporting by respondents, together with findings from experiments, suggest a number of changes in survey design that can help to reduce reporting error. They also suggest that models of retirement and saving behavior should allow for imperfect knowledge by decision makers.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Gustman & Thomas Steinmeier & Nahid Tabatabai, 2007. "Imperfect Knowledge of Pension Plan Type," NBER Working Papers 13379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13379
    Note: AG LS PE
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13379.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sewin Chan & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision-Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 253-266, May.
    2. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
    3. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1988. "An Analysis Of Pension Benefit Formulas, Pension Wealth And Incentives From Pensions," NBER Working Papers 2535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Gallo & Costanza Torricelli & Arthur van Soest, 2016. "Individual heterogeneity and pension choices: How to communicate an effective message?," Center for the Analysis of Public Policies (CAPP) 0136, Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Dipartimento di Economia "Marco Biagi".
    2. Giovanni Gallo & Costanza Torricelli & Arthur van Soest, 2016. "Individual heterogeneity and pension choices: How to communicate an effective message?," Department of Economics 0080, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    3. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2011. "Behavioral economics perspectives on public sector pension plans," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 315-336, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

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