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June 1997

Private Pension Plans, Participation, and Assets

The total number of private pension plans increased from 311,000 in 1975 to 733,000 in 1987, then declined to 702,097 in 1993. The total number of private defined benefit plans increased from 103,000 in 1975 to 175,000 in 1983, then declined to 83,596 in 1993. The total number of private defined contribution plans rose continuously from 208,000 in 1975 to 619,700 in 1992, then fell to 618,501 in 1993.

As a percentage of all private pension plans, defined contribution plans increased from 67 percent in 1975 to 88 percent in 1993. The most common types of defined contribution plans are profit-sharing and thrift savings plans. In 1993, there were 477,054 of these plans, accounting for 77.1 percent of all defined contribution plans. Money purchase plans were the second most common type of defined contribution plan. In 1993, these plans numbered 114,997 and accounted for 19 percent of all defined contribution plans.

In 1993, 2 percent of all private pension plans were collectively bargained. More defined benefit plans than defined contribution plans were collectively bargained. Among defined benefit plans, 9,343 were collectively bargained, representing 11 percent of all such plans. This compares with 7,445 collectively bargained defined contribution plans, representing one percent of all defined contribution plans.

In 1993, total participation in private pension plans was 83.9 million. Among these participants, 64.7 million were active participants; 8.7 million were retired or separated participants; and 10.4 million were separated participants with vested rights to benefits.

In 1993, more workers participated in defined contribution plans (43.6 million) than in defined benefit plans (40.3 million). The vast majority of participants receiving benefits, among those who were either retired or separated from employment, were in a defined benefit plan (8.2 million, or 94 percent of all such participants).

Most private pension plan participants were in single employer plans; 73.8 million, or 88 percent of all participants in 1993. Among the 10.1 million participants in multiemployer plans, most were in a defined benefit plan (8.1 million, or 80 percent of all multiemployer plan participants). A majority of single employer plan participants were in defined contribution plans (41.6 million, or 56 percent of all single employer plan participants); 32.2 million were in single employer defined benefit plans.

Total private pension plan assets amounted to $2,316 billion in 1993. Defined benefit plans accounted for 54 percent of private pension plan assets, or $1,248 billion. Among single employer plans, defined benefit plans accounted for one-half of all assets. Total single employer pension plan assets represented $2,091 billion in 1993, with $1,050 billion in defined benefit plans and $1,042 billion in defined contribution plans.

In 1993, 79 percent of defined benefit plans were fully funded. These plans accounted for 78 percent of private pension plan participants. The median funding ratio of the fully funded plans was 1.34. The median funding ratio of non-fully funded defined benefit plans was 0.85. These plans accounted for 22 percent of defined benefit plan participants and 21 percent of defined benefit plans.*

For more information, contact Ken McDonnell, (202) 775-6342.
Source: EBRI Databook on Employee Benefits, fourth edition, forthcoming.
*The data on funding status are for the number of defined benefit plans reporting complete actuarial data on Form 5500 series reports; 61,175 plans reported complete actuarial data, representing 73 percent of all defined benefit plans. The funding ratios quoted here were computed based on liability amounts as reported by the plans. These median ratios are not comparable to Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation data on funding ratios, which adjust plan reported liabilities to common interest rate and mortality assumptions.