Pension Benefits & Pension Plans

Pension Benefits & Pension Plans


Young Women Pension Benefits & Pension Plans Variables

This section reviews the pension coverage information from recent surveys and the pension plan data collections. For details on income from Social Security/Railroad Retirement or disability insurance, see the Social Security & Disability section.

Pension Benefits

The 1993-2003 surveys collected information about pension benefits actually received as income by the respondent and her husband or partner. Pension sources included a personal plan (e.g., IRA/401k), a private employer, the military, the federal government, a state or local government, a union, or another source.

Pension Plans

The 1991-2003 interviews included the collection of extensive information on employer pension plans for which the respondent and her spouse were eligible and participating.

1991 survey. The 1991 survey included questions on actual pension coverage and vesting rights of those respondents who indicated, during administration of the fringe benefit series, that a retirement pension program was available from their current or last employer. Respondents enrolled in an employer's pension program were asked for information on (1) the method used to determine their benefit amount, i.e., a defined benefit formula based on years of service/salary, the amount accumulated in their pension account, or both, and (2) whether they had worked under the plan long enough to be vested or entitled to some pension benefits. Those not vested were asked for information on the number of additional years needed until such rights would be obtained, what would happen to the money accumulated in each retirement account should the respondent leave her job, the dollar amount in the account now, and the amount of money that would be received in a partial or full cash settlement.

1995-2003 surveys. Information on employer-provided pension plans was collected in 1995-2003. The respondent provided information about the eligibility of herself and her spouse for current pensions from current employers. Details were gathered on participation in both defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans offered by an employer. Data were collected from those participating in a defined benefit plan on the number of years included in the plan, the amount of money contributed, age at which full or reduced benefits would be/were being received, and expected/actual benefit amounts at retirement. For those with defined contribution plans, information included the type(s) of account plan (e.g., thrift or savings, 401k, 403b, Supplemental Retirement Account, profit sharing, stock purchase), amounts both the employer and respondent contributed, total dollar amount of contributions ever made, and how the dollars were invested. All respondents who provided pension plan information were asked whether an early retirement option with incentives had been offered and, if so, the type(s) (e.g., extra service credit, increased benefits, early benefits, lump sum settlement, etc.).

Researchers should be aware of a shift in the way pension data were organized between 1995 and 1997. In 1995, the pension questions are included as part of the employer roster (a part of the questionnaire that collects information about any employers reported since the previous interview), so the pensions are organized by employer. This means that respondents report all pensions from employer #01, then all pensions from employer #02, and so on. The employer number (#01, #02, etc.) is included in the variable title. In 1997 and 1999, pension data are located in a separate roster, so that plans are organized in the order they were reported by the respondent. The variable titles include only "PN #01," "PN #02," "PN #03," etc., for the first plan reported, second plan reported, and so on, regardless of which employer that plan is associated with. A set of ID variables then permits researchers to link the plans with the appropriate employer. The two systems are described further below.

The following example in Table YW1 illustrates the implications of this change. Consider a respondent with four pensions, two from a current employer listed on line 2 in the employer roster, and two from a past employer listed on line 5 of the employer roster. In 1995, the respondent would start with question name RSP‑108‑ARR‑02 and answer questions about the first plan for employer #02. She would then return to the same question, now named RSP‑208‑ARR‑02, and provide information bout the second plan with that employer. This pattern would repeat for plans three and four. In 1997, the respondent would answer a series of questions, beginning with question name RSP‑102‑ARR‑01, about her first pension plan. She would next answer the same series of questions, now named RSP‑102‑ARR‑02, about her second plan, and so on until all plans are reported. Researchers can then look at the R7PENS variables (R7PENS is the prefix of the question name) to determine which plan number a given plan is for a specific employer. Finally, researchers can use the R7EMPS variables to determine which employer matches with a given plan. Note that, in the example, the plans are listed by employer, but they would not necessarily be listed in that order.

Table YW1. Pension Plan Rostering Systems


Question name Variable title Question name Variable title Value of R7PENS Value of R7EMPS
Pension 1 RSP-108-ARR-02 1st pension plan-job #02 RSP-102-ARR-01 PN #01 R7PENS-ROST1=1 R7EMPS-ROST1=2
Pension 2 RSP-208-ARR-02 2nd pension plan-job #02 RSP-102-ARR-02 PN #02 R7PENS-ROST2=2 R7EMPS-ROST2=2
Pension 3 RSP-108-ARR-05 1st pension plan-job #05 RSP-102-ARR-03 PN #03 R7PENS-ROST3=1 R7EMPS-ROST3=5
Pension 4 RSP-208-ARR-05 2nd pension plan-job #05 RSP-102-ARR-04 PN #04 R7PENS-ROST4=2 R7EMPS-ROST4=5
 Meaning 108, 208, etc. indicate the 1st, 2nd, etc., plan from the same employer. ARR-## indicates the employer number on the employer roster. ARR-## indicates the number of the plan on the pension roster. ROST# serves the same function in similar question names. The value indicates whether this is the 1st, 2nd, etc. plan for a single employer. The value indicates the number of the employer on the employer roster.

Related Variables: The Geographic Mobility section of the 1983 questionnaire collected information on the effect of the respondent's move to her current residence on (1) the job seniority rights of the respondent or spouse and (2) the retirement plans of the respondent or spouse. Coding categories delineated whether the respondent/spouse had lost some, none, or all seniority or pension/retirement rights or whether she or he had no such rights before the move. The fringe benefit series regularly includes "retirement pension program" as one of the benefits made available by a current or past employer. Availability should not be confused with actual coverage under a pension plan or receipt of pension benefits.

Survey Instruments: The "Income and Assets" section of the questionnaires contains the pension income questions. The "Current Labor Force Status and Work History" section of the 1991 questionnaire and the "Respondent Employer Supplement," "Husband Employer Supplement," and "Income and Assets" sections of the 1995-2003 questionnaires contain the pension plan questions.