Characteristics of individuals with integrated pensions

Soc Secur Bull. 1999;62(3):28-40.


Employer pensions that integrate benefits with Social Security have been the focus of relatively little research. Since changes in Social Security benefit levels and other program characteristics can affect the benefit levels and other features of integrated pension plans, it is important to know who is covered by these plans. This article examines the characteristics of workers covered by integrated pension plans, compared to those with nonintegrated plans and those with no pension coverage. Integrated pension plans are those that explicitly adjust their benefit structure to help compensate for the employer's contributions to the Social Security program. There are two basic integration methods used by defined benefit (DB) plans. The offset method causes a reduction in employer pension benefits by up to half of the Social Security retirement benefit; the excess rate method is characterized by an accrual rate that is lower for earnings below the Social Security taxable maximum than above it. Defined contribution (DC) pension plans can be integrated along the lines of the excess rate method. To date, research on integrated pensions has focused on plan characteristics, as reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through its Employee Benefits Survey (EBS). This research has examined the prevalence of integration among full-time, private sector workers by industry, firm size, and broad occupational categories. However, because the EBS provides virtually no data on worker characteristics, analyses of the effects of pension integration on retirement benefits have used hypothetical workers, varying according to assumed levels of earnings and job tenure. This kind of analysis is not particularly helpful in examining the potential effects of changes in the Social Security program on workers' pension benefits. However, data on pension integration at the individual level are available, most recently from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative survey of individuals aged 51-61 in 1992. This dataset provides the basis for the analysis presented here. The following are some of the major findings from this analysis. The incidence of pension integration in the HRS sample is 32 percent of all workers with a pension (14 percent of all workers). The HRS can also identify integrated DC plans, a statistic that is not available from BLS data. The rate of integration for workers with only DC plans is 8 percent. After controlling for other variables, several socio-demographic characteristics are significantly related to the incidence of integration. The probability of having an integrated pension is 4.6 percentage points less for men compared to women. Non-Hispanic blacks are 6.4 percentage points less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have integrated pensions. Union members are 14 percentage points less likely to have integrated pensions, while workers with less than a graduate level education are at least 15 percentage points more likely to have a pension that is integrated. Some earnings and pension characteristics are also significantly correlated with pension integration. Earnings are positively related, with the probability of having an integrated pension increasing by 2 percentage points for an increase of $1,000 in annual pay. An even larger effect comes from earning at or above the Social Security taxable maximum. Workers at or above this income level are 10 percentage points more likely to have an integrated plan, but for those with more than one plan the probability of pension integration goes up by 13 percentage points.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Labor Unions / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Pensions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retirement / economics*
  • Retirement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Security / economics*
  • Social Security / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States