Pension plan participation among married couples

Soc Secur Bull. 2013;73(3):45-52.


We present descriptive statistics on pension participation and types of pensions among married couples, using data from the 1996/2008 Panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation and Social Security administrative records. Previous research has focused on pension coverage by marital status, but has not examined couples as a unit. Because couples usually share income, viewing them as a unit provides a better picture of potential access to income from retirement plans. Our analysis compares 1998 and 2009 data because substantial changes occurred in the pension landscape over this decade that could have influenced the prevalence of different pension plans, although we observe modest changes in participation rates and types of plans over the period. We find that in 20 percent of couples, neither spouse participated in a pension plan; in 10 percent, the wife was the only participant; and in 37 percent, the husband was the only participant.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Marital Status / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Pensions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retirement / economics*
  • Retirement / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Security / economics*
  • Social Security / statistics & numerical data
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States