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American Economic Review


How has the emergence of defined contribution pensi on plans, such as 401(k) plans, affected the financial security of future retirees? We consider this question using a unique dataset of pension plan formulas for the Surveys of Consumer Finances in 1983 and 1989 and the characteristics of 401(k) plans from the Surveys of Consumer Finances between 1989 and 2001. Our simulations account for uncertainty in earnings and rates of return on stocks and bonds, ownership of company stock, uncertainty in earnings, and heterogeneity in asset choices, plan participation, and job tenure. We find that in the mid-1990s, 401(k) plans were roughly equivalent to defined benefit plans from the 1980s, but by the later 1990s, 401(k) plans dominated defined benefit plans.



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