Retirement plan wealth inequality: Measurement and trends

TitleRetirement plan wealth inequality: Measurement and trends
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGhilarducci, T, Radpour, S, Webb, A
Series TitleThe New School for Social Research Working Paper Series
Document NumberWorking Paper #1
InstitutionSchwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis
CityNew York City
KeywordsInequality, Retirement Planning & Satisfaction, Wealth

Using Health and Retirement Study data linked to summary plan descriptions and W-2s, this study reports trends in retirement wealth inequality of older employees 1992-2010. The study identifies and corrects methodological flaws in past research. Retirement wealth is highly unequally distributed; the top lifetime earnings quintile holds half of all retirement wealth, the bottom quintile, only 1 percent. The top earnings quintile fared better in 2010 than in 1992, whereas bottom-quintile earners fared worse. But retirement wealth inequality mainly reflects inequality within earnings quintiles, resulting from inadequate savings, not outsize accumulations. Systemic flaws reduce median retirement wealth by 84 percent.

Citation Key10087