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The Fall in Private Pension Coverage in the U.S


  • David E. Bloom
  • Richard B. Freeman


This study documents the 1980s fall in pension coverage and shows that it was concentrated most heavily on men, especially on the young and less educated. We find evidence that changes in real earnings and deunionization account for a sizeable portion of the fall in pension coverage. By contrast, we find little evidence that pension coverage fell because of a twist away from pensions in the tradeoff between pensions and other forms of compensation. With the possible exception of changes in the tax deductibility of contributions to individual retirement accounts, we also find little evidence that pension coverage declined because of institutional changes that reduced the attractiveness of pensions to employees or employers.

Suggested Citation

  • David E. Bloom & Richard B. Freeman, 1992. "The Fall in Private Pension Coverage in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 3973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3973
    Note: AG LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McKinley L. Blackburn & David E. Bloom & Richard B. Freeman, 1989. "The Declining Economic Position of Less-Skilled American Males," NBER Working Papers 3186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Douglas L. Kruse, 1991. "Pension Substitution in the 1980s: Why the Shift Toward Defined Contribution Pension Plans?," NBER Working Papers 3882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joel Rogers, 1995. "United States: Lessons from Abroad and Home," NBER Chapters,in: Works Councils: Consultation, Representation, and Cooperation in Industrial Relations, pages 375-410 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1993. "The Role of Pensions in the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Statistics Canada, 1999. "The Evolution of Pension Coverage of Young and Prime-aged Workers in Canada," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1999138e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    4. Alan L. Gustman & F. Thomas Juster, 1995. "Income and Wealth of Older American Households: Modeling Issues for Public Policy Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 2002. "Taxation and saving," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 18, pages 1173-1249 Elsevier.
    6. McCarthy, Michael A., 2014. "Neoliberalism without neoliberals: Evidence from the rise of 401(k) retirement plans," MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/12, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    7. Drolet, Marie & Morissette, Rene, 1999. "L'evolution de la protection offerte par les pensions aux travailleurs jeunes et plus ages au Canada," Direction des etudes analytiques : documents de recherche 1999138f, Statistics Canada, Direction des etudes analytiques.

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