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Pensions: Worker Coverage and Retirement Income, 1984

Report Number P70-12


The fourth wave topical module to the 1984 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), conducted September through December of 1984, contained supplemental questions on both pension eligibility of the working population and on 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 reliance on 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.

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.1 In addition, there have been two pension supplements to the CPS. The Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration sponsored a pension supplement in May 1979 and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and the Department of Health and Human Services sponsored a similar supplement in May 1983. An analysis of data from these two CPS pension supplements is contained in a study by Emily Andrews of the EBRI, entitled "The Changing Profile of Pensions in America." Although the May 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.

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 were eligible for Social Security retirement benefits in 1984.

This is the first Census Bureau study to highlight specifically the economic status of retirees. The March CPS income supplement has provided information on the economic situation of the population by age group, including the 65-and-over population; 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 such as years since retirement and former industry. Thus, these new SIPP data can provide a more comprehensive picture of the economic status of retirees than any other information previously available from the Census Bureau.

1 See Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 155, Receipt of Selected Noncash Benefits: 1985, for the latest CPS data on pensions. Other P-60 reports have contained CPS pension data for the 1979-84 period.


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