U.S. Pensions in the 2000s: The Lost Decade?

Edward N. Wolff

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The last three decades saw a sharp decline in traditional defined benefit (DB) pensions and a corresponding rise in defined contribution (DC) plans. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances from 1983 to 2010, I find that after robust gains in the 1980s and 1990s, pension wealth experienced a marked slowdown in growth from 2001 to 2007 and then fell in absolute terms from 2007 to 2010. Median augmented wealth (the sum of net worth, pensions, and Social Security wealth) advanced slower than median net worth from 1983 to 2007 and its inequality rose more, as DB wealth fell off. However, from 2007 to 2010, the opposite occurred. While median wealth plummeted by 41 percent and inequality spiked by 0.032 Gini points, median augmented wealth fell by only 21 percent and its Gini coefficient rose by only 0.009 points. The differences are due to the moderating influence of Social Security wealth.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)599-629
    Number of pages31
    JournalReview of Income and Wealth
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


    • Inequality
    • Pensions
    • Social Security
    • Wealth

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics


    Dive into the research topics of 'U.S. Pensions in the 2000s: The Lost Decade?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this