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Impact of Defaults in Retirement Saving Plans: Public Employee Plans


  • Robert L. Clark
  • Denis Pelletier


This study examines the impact of the adoption automatic enrollment provisions by the state of South Dakota for its supplemental retirement saving plan (SRP). In South Dakota, state and local government employees, including teachers, are also covered by a defined benefit pension plan and by Social Security. Thus, career public employees in South Dakota can expect a life time annuity from these two programs of around 75 percent of their final salary. Prior to the introduction of automatic enrollment, the proportion of newly hired employees who were contributing to the SRP was less than three percent in their first year of employment. After the introduction of automatic enrollment, over 90 percent of newly hired workers who were auto enrolled were participating in the plan. Significant differences compared to earlier studies of auto enrollment include: we are examining public employees who are also covered by a defined benefit retirement plan, prior to the introduction of auto enroll participation were extremely low, and these is no employer match to employee contributions to the SRP. Thus, the key question is whether auto enrollment has the same powerful impact on contributions to a retirement saving plan under these conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert L. Clark & Denis Pelletier, 2019. "Impact of Defaults in Retirement Saving Plans: Public Employee Plans," NBER Working Papers 26234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26234
    Note: AG

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    2. Robert L. Clark & Aditi Pathak & Denis Pelletier, 2018. "Supplemental Retirement Savings Plans in the Public Sector: Participation and Contribution Decisions by School Personnel," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 39(4), pages 383-404, December.
    3. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Garrett, Daniel M., 2003. "The effects of financial education in the workplace: evidence from a survey of households," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1487-1519, August.
    4. Butrica, Barbara A. & Karamcheva, Nadia S, 2015. "Automatic Enrollment, Employer Match Rates and Employee Compensation in 401(k) Plans," IZA Discussion Papers 8807, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert L. Clark & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2020. "Target Date Defaults in a Public Sector Retirement Saving Plan," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(3), pages 1133-1149, January.
    2. Laura D. Quinby & Geoffrey Sanzenbacher, 2021. "Do Public Sector Workers Increase Their Outside Savings in Response to Pension Cuts?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 1023, Boston College Department of Economics.
    3. Robert L. Clark & Denis Pelletier, 2019. "Does Automatic Enrollment Increase Contributions to Supplement Retirement Programs by K-12 and University Employees?," NBER Working Papers 26263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets

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