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.
The Labor Center conducts research on pensions for teachers and other public sector workers, focusing on risks, cost-efficiency, and workforce retention impacts of traditional defined-benefit pensions compared to 401(k)-style individual investment accounts.
Research & Publications
A new report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center finds that defined benefit pensions—especially public pensions—are critical to providing adequate retirement income for California seniors, especially for women, Black, and Latino retirees, and those without a four-year college degree.
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.
A new research brief, “How public pensions support race and gender equity,” finds that public pensions play an outsized role in the retirement security of every racial group– particularly in Black and Latino communities–in Marin County and the rest of the state.
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.
This research brief finds that public employee pensions in Sonoma County help to balance the gap with private sector salaries and are financially sound, though they have a way to go in protecting many retirees from inflation.
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.
RELEASE: Understanding the Financial Status, Cost, and Sustainability of Public Pensions in Marin County
Designed as a resource for policymakers and journalists, this brief explains how public pension costs are calculated and funded, and explains how reforms adopted by CalPERS, CalSTRS, and MCERA have put the systems on stronger footing in recent years. This is the second of three briefs in the Marin Public Pension Series.
Marin Public Pension Series – Brief #1: How Defined Benefit Pensions Support a Quality Public Sector Workforce in Marin County
This brief examines the economic value of DB pensions—which provide secure monthly retirement income based on salary and years of service—for public employees, employers, and residents in Marin County.
A new research brief by the UC Berkeley Labor Center demonstrates how defined benefit (DB) pensions—which provide secure monthly retirement income based on salary and years of service—support a quality public sector workforce in Marin County.
As teachers across the country mobilize for education funding and fair pay, pensions are high on their list of priorities. What they know from experience, and research confirms, is that pensions are a win-win for teachers and schools, delivering superior retirement security and retaining teachers for decades. Conversely, abandoning pensions in favor of 401(k) or cash balance plans would come at great cost to teacher livelihoods and erode education quality.
In this study, we determine whether most teachers working in classrooms today can expect to work long enough in the same state to accrue higher benefits under their existing traditional pension, which provides monthly income based on age and service, than they would under a 401(k)-type savings plan of equal cost.
A new study from University of California, Berkeley and the National Institute on Retirement Security shows that for the vast majority of teachers, existing pension benefits provides a higher, more secure retirement income compared to a cost-equivalent 401(k)-style plan. What’s more, pensions keep teachers in classrooms.
The results of our analysis indicate that the current Kentucky TRS pension is better matched to meet the retirement needs of the teaching workforce than a 401(k)-style plan.
If someone tells you your kid’s teacher would be better off with a 401(k) than a pension, don’t believe it
Berkeley Blog post. Traditional pensions attract recruits to the profession and keep experienced teachers in the classroom. Doing away with pensions would increase teacher attrition and, worse, severely diminish their retirement security.
This blog post is the second in a two-part series explaining why recent studies claiming that teachers are better off with 401(k)s than pensions because of distributional issues and lower benefits for early leavers are misleading in their representation of the teaching workforce, and in how they compare retirement benefits.
This blog post is the first in a two-part series addressing key problems with studies advocating that teacher pensions be replaced with 401(k)s.
Most California Teachers Working Today Are Here for the Long Haul — and Better Off with a DB Pension
Early career turnover is a serious policy concern for public education — but is it the sole basis on which to evaluate the suitability of teacher retirement benefits? Absolutely not.…
Pensions form a significant part of public school teacher compensation, and provide the primary source of retirement security for teachers, many of whom are not included in Social Security.