This report finds that public pensions play an outsized role in the retirement security of every major demographic group in California, with the strongest impact on women and people of color. It is also a powerful tool for reducing wealth inequality. As private pension coverage declines, public pensions remain a critical bulwark of middle-class retirement security alongside Social Security, particularly for marginalized communities who have been historically shut out of other wealth-building opportunities.
Nari Rhee, Ph.D., is director of the Retirement Security program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Her current research focuses on the retirement crisis facing California and the U.S. in the context of declining pension coverage, and policies to improve the retirement income prospects of low- and middle- wage workers. Before returning to the Labor Center in November 2014, she served for two years as manager of research at the National Institute on Retirement Security. She formerly held appointments as a postdoctoral scholar, visiting scholar, and associate academic specialist at the Labor Center. Dr. Rhee has written on a wide range of issues related to pensions and retirement security, including public pension reform, international pension systems, and retirement plan design. Her analysis of the retirement savings crisis and its racial dimensions has received broad media coverage and informed policy debates at the state and national levels.
Dr. Rhee’s previous work engaged a range of issues related to the economic security of low-wage workers, including care work, income inequality, housing affordability, uneven regional development, and labor-community coalition building. She earned a Ph.D. in geography from UC Berkeley in 2007, a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA in 1998, and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 1996.
This study analyzes the impact of defined benefit pensions, especially public pensions, on retirement income security and wealth distribution by race, gender, and educational attainment in the U.S. It serves as a companion report to Closing the Gap fact sheets, which are designed to inform the public about the social equity impact of pensions in each state and the District of Columbia.
This brief analyzes the impact of public sector employment and defined-benefit pensions on race and gender equity in retirement income security in Marin County and California. Public pensions play an outsized role in the retirement security of every racial group, particularly in Black and Latino communities, and pension income provides a critical buffer against economic hardship in old age for all groups, especially women, Black and Latino Californians, and seniors without college degrees.
This brief examines pension benefits for public servants in Sonoma County in terms of their role in employee compensation, the evolving financial status of pension systems, the impact of pension reform on costs, and how different pension systems in the county and surrounding Bay Area region stack up against each other in terms of protection from inflation during retirement.
Marin Public Pension Series – Brief #2: Understanding the Financial Status, Cost, and Sustainability of Public Pensions in Marin County
This brief is intended to help policymakers and the public better understand the financial standing of Marin County’s public pension systems, the role of legacy liabilities vs. ongoing benefit accrual in employer pension costs, and the current trajectory of these costs.
Black and Latino workers, who are often in jobs that are lower wage, on a part-time basis, or with higher job turnover rates, have often been left out of the retirement system. For retirement programs like CalSavers to all work, Rhee says employer participation is key.
“If you make it to age 60 to 65, you can still expect to live a pretty long time,” said Nari Rhee, director of the Retirement Security Program at UC Berkeley Labor Center. “And I would say it’s a particular issue for women, because women can expect to live longer, but they’ve had lower earnings, they’ve had patchier careers because of caregiving, both for children and often for elders.”
Public pensions support race and gender equity in Marin County, according to a new study from the University of California at Berkeley.
Retirement is the final chapter of the American dream. But that dream of the “golden years” is quickly turning into a fairy tale for a growing number of people. More than a third of Americans today feel unprepared or unsure if they are on track for retirement, according to a new study. But, on the other hand, some experts say American seniors are better off than their counterparts in other countries. Is America really facing a retirement crisis, and if so can it be solved?
A quarter of Americans are expecting to delay their retirement due to rising consumer costs, according to a new study
“If you’re retired and on a fixed income, inflation really, really hurts,” said Rhee. “We’ve come out of decades of historically low-interest inflation to all of a sudden pretty substantial inflation, especially in things that matter to people, which is food and fuel.”
“Social Security is a bedrock,” Nari Rhee, director of UC Berkeley Labor Center’s Retirement Security Program, testified at a federal hearing last year. But “the current average benefit of $1,500 a month is insufficient to cover basic needs for most retirees, given the cost of living.”
Rhee says workers are much more likely to save for retirement if there is a payroll deduction program at work.
“Our research shows that pension costs for public employees in Marin County are either declining or near their peak, and that public employers can anticipate lower rates in the near future,” said Nari Rhee, director of the retirement security program at the center.
One hurdle CalSavers faces, Rhee said, is making small employers aware of the June 30 deadline. They need to be told what their obligations are, she said, but they’re the hardest group to reach.