Research & Analysis by Eric J. Toder
The Disappearing Defined Benefit Pension and Its Potential Impact on the Retirement Incomes of Baby Boomers
A large share of traditional defined benefit pension plans have frozen within the past decade and evidence suggests that this trend will continue in the future. This article uses the Model of Income in the Near Term (MINT) microsimulation model to project the impact on boomers' retirement incomes of freezing traditional pension plans and replacing them with 401(k)-type plans. The projections suggest that the largest impact will be for the most recent boomers born between 1961 and 1965.
This article presents three measures of the distributional effects of Social Security benefits on actual and projected retirement income of workers born between 1931 and 1960. Microsimulations take into account marital history, the sharing of incomes and tax burdens within couples, and differences in life expectancy among subgroups of the population. More important than changes in tax rates or benefits are changes in the demographics and earnings patterns of the workforce, particularly the higher lifetime covered earnings of women. The growing share of women receiving worker benefits instead of spouse or survivor benefits, plus the increased proportion of retirees who are divorced, make Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) benefits more progressive, even in the face of declining net benefits.