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Report Number P70-25
Kathleen Short, Charles Nelson
Component ID: #ti958711307

Introduction

The topical modules of the seventh wave of the 1985 panel and the fourth wave of the 1986 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), both conducted January through April of 1987, contained supplemental questions on pension eligibility of the working population and characteristics of persons receiving retirement income. This report presents findings based on these supplemental questions. The prevalence of pension coverage among different segments of the population, the growth of employee-directed retirement plans (such as IRA's and 401(k) plans), and differences in the level of economic well-being of today's retirees are some of the topics discussed in this report.

This is the second Census Bureau study to specifically highlight pension coverage and the economic status of retirees. The first report, released in 1987 (Current Population Reports, Series P-70, No. 12), contained comparable information from the fourth wave of the 1984 panel of SIPP. This report essentially updates that study; several estimates from the first report are repeated here in order to make comparisons over time.

There have been other surveys conducted by the Census Bureau containing questions on pension eligibility. Since 1980, the annual income supplement to the March Current Population Survey (CPS) has included a limited number of questions on pension eligibility for each person identified as a worker during the calendar year prior to interview. In addition, there have been three pension supplements to the CPS in May of 1979, 1983, and 1988. An analysis of data from the May 1979 and 1983 pension supplements is contained in a study by Emily Andrews of the Employee Benefits Research Institute, entitled "The Changing Profile of Pensions in America." Although the CPS and SIPP data sets are somewhat different, the data in this report are based on the definitions of pension eligibility used in the EBRI study.1

Pension eligibility, as defined in this study, was restricted to employer-provided pensions. Eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits was not included. According to the Social Security Administration, 92 percent of all civilian wage and salary workers participate in the Social Security System and are potentially eligible for retirement or disability benefits.

The March CPS income supplement has provided information on the economic situation of the population by age group, including the elderly; however, the CPS does not directly identify the "ever-retired" population nor does it link the level of retirement income with important retirement related variables (years since retirement, former industry, etc.). Thus, this SIPP report series can provide a more comprehensive picture of the economic status of retirees than any other information previously available from the Census Bureau.

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1 A technical note to this text contains comparisons of SIPP and CPS pension participation estimates.

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