Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Municipal governments in the U.S. began offering retirement plans for their workers in the mid-19th century, and state governments followed in the early 20th century. As these plans matured, they confronted economic, social, and political challenges, including the creation of the Social Security system, which subsequently shaped their structure, governance, and generosity. After reviewing this history, we employ data from all 50 states to estimate a pension benefit equation for hypothetical workers and explain differences in the generosity of plans across states and types of workers covered. We show that population growth, plan funding, union representation, and participation in Social Security influenced the generosity of the plans.


The published version of this Working Paper may be found in the 2009 publication: The Future of Public Employee Retirement Systems.

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

© 2008 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.


Opinions and errors are solely those of the authors and not of the institutions with whom the authors are affiliated. This research was presented at the 2008 Pension Research Council Symposium, and we anticipate that it will appear in a forthcoming refereed volume to be published by the Oxford University Press.

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Economics Commons



Date Posted: 09 August 2019