Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



We assess the impact of 401(k) plan design on four different 401(k) savings outcomes: participation in the 401(k) plan, the distribution of employee contribution rates, asset allocation, and cash distributions. We show that plan design can have an important effect on all of these savings outcomes. This suggests an important role for both employers in determining how to structure their 401(k) plans and government regulators in creating institutions that encourage or discourage particular aspects of 401(k) plan design.


Written for the National Tax Journal Forum on Pensions, June 2004.

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

©2004 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All Rights Reserved.


We thank Hewitt Associates for their help in providing the data. We are particularly grateful to Lori Lucas and Yan Xu, some of our many contacts at Hewitt. We also appreciate the research assistance of Laura Serben and Holly Ming. Choi acknowledges financial support from the Mustard Seed Foundation. Choi, Laibson and Madrian acknowledge individual and collective financial support from the National Institute on Aging (grants R01-AG-16605, R29-AG-013020, R01-AG-021650 and T32-AG00186). Laibson also acknowledges financial support from the Sloan Foundation.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 30 August 2019