Research & Analysis by Alicia H. Munnell

State and Local Government Employees Without Social Security Coverage: What Percentage Will Earn Pension Benefits That Fall Short of Social Security Equivalence?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 3 (released August 2022)
by Jean-Pierre Aubry, Siyan Liu, Alicia H. Munnell, Laura D. Quinby, and Glenn R. Springstead

Social Security is designed to provide a base of retirement income, to be supplemented in part by employer-sponsored retirement plans. However, approximately one-quarter of state and local government employees are not covered by Social Security, which federal law allows if their employer-provided plans provide comparable benefits. Yet many public pensions are less generous for recent hires, raising questions of whether those plans will still provide Social Security–equivalent benefits. The authors analyze 66 plans and project that a significant minority of them are likely to fall short of providing Social Security–equivalent benefits, potentially affecting 750,000 to 1 million noncovered workers annually.

Pensions for State and Local Government Workers Not Covered by Social Security: Do Benefits Meet Federal Standards?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 80, No. 3 (released August 2020)
by Laura D. Quinby, Jean-Pierre Aubry, and Alicia H. Munnell

Federal law allows certain state and local governments to exclude employees from Social Security coverage if the employees are provided with a sufficiently generous pension. Approximately 6.5 million such workers were not covered by Social Security in 2018. Retirement systems for noncovered workers have become less generous in recent years, and a few plans could exhaust their trust funds within the next decade, putting beneficiaries at risk. This article examines data from a variety of sources to assess whether state and local governments currently satisfy the federal standards for retirement plan sufficiency and whether the standards ensure benefits equivalent to those from Social Security.

How Do Trends in Women's Labor Force Activity and Marriage Patterns Affect Social Security Replacement Rates?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 4 (released November 2013)
by April Yanyuan Wu, Nadia S. Karamcheva, Alicia H. Munnell, and Patrick J. Purcell

Changes in the role of women in the economy and in the family have affected both the amount and the type of Social Security benefits they receive in retirement. Women's labor force participation rate increased from less than 40 percent in 1950 to more than 70 percent in 2011. Over much of the same period, marriage rates fell and divorce rates rose. This article examines how women's higher earnings and lower marriage rates have affected Social Security replacement rates over time for individuals and for households.

What Determines 401(k) Participation and Contributions?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 3 (released January 2003)
by Alicia H. Munnell, Annika Sundén, and Catherine Taylor

In addition to variables such as age, income, and job tenure, the length of an employee's planning horizon is a crucial factor affecting participation in and contribution to a 401(k) plan. On the plan side, the most important factors are the availability of matching contributions from the employer and the ability of employees to gain access to their funds before retirement through borrowing. Good information about the need for retirement savings and good plan design could significantly increase eligible employees' participation and contributions.

Social Security and Private Saving: Another Look
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 5 (released May 1979)
by Robert J. Barro, Michael Darby, Martin Feldstein, and Alicia H. Munnell