By John Sabelhaus

Research Overview

he share of US workers covered by a traditional employer-sponsored pension plan has declined dramatically over the past few decades. According to Form 5500 filings (US Department of Labor 2021), in 1975 roughly 75 percent of workers included in private pension plans were in traditional defined benefit (DB) plans, with 25 percent in defined-contribution (DC) plans. By 2019, even though the total number of pension plan participants had roughly tripled, the fraction participating in DB plans had fallen to less than 25 percent, and the absolute number of participating workers in DB plans had declined. Even some public sector jobs—once the bastion of the traditional DB pensions—are seeing shifts in coverage, especially for newly hired employees (National Association of State Retirement Plan Administrators n.d.).

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About the Author:

John Sabelhaus is nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington DC, and adjunct associate research professor at the University of Michigan.

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