Pension Benefits & Pension Plans

Pension Benefits & Pension Plans

Pension Benefits and Social Security Payments 

Information on whether income was received by the respondent or spouse from other (unspecified) sources such as Social Security, pensions, or annuities was collected during the administration of each survey's "Income and Assets" section. Follow-up questions asked whether:

  • An opposite-sex adult/partner (1979-84, 1990-2016) had received Social Security/Railroad Retirement or pension income in the past calendar year
  • Household income was received by those respondents living in their parental home or by any other household member related to these respondents from:
    • Governmental or private pensions or annuities
    • Social Security/Railroad Retirement benefits was collected during the 1979-86 household interviews.

Disability Payments: Fielded during the 1980-2016 surveys was a set of questions that asked whether the respondent or his or her spouse (and since 1994, "or partner," if applicable) had received any income during the past year from veteran's benefits, Worker's Compensation, or other disability. If such income was received, an amount was recorded.

1994 Changes: Beginning in 1994, the Employer Supplements section on benefits was expanded to include a large amount of pension information. The pension questions are asked for each job that a respondent works at 20 hours a week or more. The pension section elicits information from the respondent on the following 11 subjects:

  1. If eligible for a plan
  2. How many participating in
  3. How many plans eligible for with each employer
  4. Knowledge of each plan
  5. Number of years enrolled in a plan
  6. Type of plan
  7. Employer contributions
  8. Employee contributions
  9. Whether choice in investment strategy
  10. How much the plan is worth
  11. Investment strategy

In addition, in 1994-2004 and 2008-2016, a series of four questions added to the "Asset" section of the questionnaire began to track retirement savings. Prior to 1994 this information was asked for as part of the answers to other asset questions, while in 1994 pension questions were separated out. The first question asks if the respondent/spouse has any IRA accounts. If the answer is yes, respondents are queried about how much money is held in their IRA. Then the respondent is asked if they or their spouse or partner hold any 401k or 403b accounts. If the answer is yes, they are questioned how much money is held in these accounts.

In 2004, questions were added for younger workers about hypothetical changes to the Social Security program and the introduction of personal retirement accounts.

In 2010 a series of questions concerning stock options were added. In 2012 and in 2014 these questions were asked only of respondents who weren't asked them in 2010.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: Questions on NLSY97 retirement benefits, including very limited information on savings in pension/retirement plans, are only asked of respondents who report an employee job lasting at least 13 weeks that ended after the date of their 16th birthday, or who are age 16 and over and report an on-going employee job at which they have worked at least 13 weeks. Independent youth provide information about participation in government programs. For each government assistance program, the surveys ask whether the respondent or his or her spouse had participated in the program since the last interview (for respondents who had answered these questions in a previous interview) or had ever participated (for respondents going through this section for the first time). Also, the survey collects information on the duration of each spell of receipt (e.g., stop and start dates) and the amount of aid the respondent or his or her spouse/partner received for each spell. For certain programs (e.g., AFDC or ADC, WIC, food stamps), the survey asks the respondent to state the members of the household covered by the program.

For the Mature Women, information on income from governmental and private pension plans was collected during all surveys except the 1968 mail survey; for the Young Women, the 1991, 1995, and 1997 interviews included the collection of extensive information on employer pension plans for which the respondent and her spouse were eligible; for the Older men, in general, most surveys asked about income from a government pension and income from other sources, such as a private employer pension. No information on eligibility for or income from pensions and Social Security was collected from the Young Men. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.

Survey Instruments and Documentation Income source questions are located within the "Income and Assets" sections of each questionnaire: Section 21 (1979), Section 17 (1980), Section 12 (1981, 1987, 1989, and 1992), Section 14 (1982 and 1985), Section 13 (1983, 1986, 1990, 1994-2016), Section 15 (1984 and 1988), and Section 11 (1991 and 1993).  The household income questions can be found on Version A of the Household Interview Form. The  Household Composition, Poverty Status & Public Assistance Support Sources, and Survey Instruments sections of this guide present additional information on the collection of household and income data.
Areas of Interest Pension source variables are found in the "Pensions," "Income," and "Misc. xxxx" areas of interest.