Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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Working Paper

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Insuring retirement security is an important challenge for our aging society, and many policymakers are seeking ways to help individuals save more for retirement. The state of Oregon recently launched an auto-enrollment retirement savings program for private sector workers who lack access to workplace retirement plans; many of these workers are lower-paid employees working at smaller firms. Our paper investigates early results from the OregonSaves program using data through June 2019. We find that OregonSaves is serving firms across many industries, including food services, health care, retail trade, and agriculture. In June 2019, approximately 24,000 contributing participants deposited an average of $110 per month, or about 5% of their pay, which is the default savings rate. To date, over 40,000 individuals have accumulated combined assets over $22.7 million. We also find that OregonSaves has provided access to workplace retirement accounts for employees of small to mid-sized firms (average firm size 36 employees), with participating employees’ earning an average of $2,182 per month.


Retirement, pension, government retirement plan, workplace retirement plan, saving for retirement, low-paid employees

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

The findings and conclusions are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of SSA, any agency of the Federal Government, the MRRC, OregonSaves, or any other institutions with which the authors are affiliated. © 2020 Chalmers, Mitchell, Reuter, and Zhong.


The research was supported by a grant from the US Social Security Administration (SSA) to the Michigan Retirement Research Center (MRRC) as part of the Retirement Research Consortium (RRC). Support was also provided by the Pension Research Council/Boettner Center of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; the Pew Foundation; the AARP; and the Quartet program at the University of Pennsylvania. We thank many individuals from the OregonSaves program for numerous discussions and insights into the OS program, and Yong Yu as well as Wenliang Hou for excellent research assistance.

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Economics Commons



Date Posted: 23 July 2020