There are over 340 sets of benefit provisions available to new hires in the public sector, as of August 2021 — plus hundreds more retirement plans and classes of benefits with active members that are closed to further entrants. All of these are managed through 159 retirement “plans” that are governed by a still smaller number of systems. But this does not count the many more retirement plans sponsored by municipal governments.

This hypercomplex landscape has led to a wide range of claims about public sector pension plans. So our team at Equable has sought to help with collecting and providing a comprehensive set of important information about state and local retirement plans that can be used by academic researchers, journalists, or other policy experts.

Equable Public Retirement Research Database

Equable Benefits Database [Last Update: August 2021]

  • Download data for 340 state retirement plans and classes of benefits, including pension plans, defined contribution plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans.
  • Data also includes topline information about several hundred legacy retirement plans that are not open to new members, but still have active participants.
  • Data also includes benefit provisions for New York City and Chicago public school employee retirement systems.

Equable Finance Database [Coming October 2021]

  • Download data for 159 state defined benefit retirement plans, including pension plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans.

*Note: Many retirement plans have multiple classes or tiers of benefits, which is why the universe of Benefit Provisions looks larger than the Finance data.

Where We Get Data and Why We are Publishing This Dataset

Earlier this year we published a piece entitled “A Pension Data Primer: What to Look for and Where” that outlined the various trade-offs between different sources for data on public pensions. In that piece, we highlighted a variety of different data sources covering both public pension funding and benefits; however, we encouraged researchers to go out and collect data from the primary source documents whenever possible.

Following the publication of that piece we released the first edition of Equable’s Retirement Security Report (RSR), an interactive tool that allows public employees and retirees alike to look at the benefits being offered by their retirement system to see whether those benefits put them on a path toward a secure retirement income. As part of that project we released the source code and data via GitHub (linked here) in an effort to promote both transparency in our research and also to make those data available to researchers outside of Equable. In this same vein, we are publishing all of the primary source data that we gathered as part of the project too. These data report a wealth of information regarding the benefit designs employed by retirement systems.

In all, the Equable Benefits Database provides some level of coverage for more than 700 plans addressing pensions, defined contribution plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans. In the coming months we will continue to expand our data coverage to include more legacy plans offered at the state level and additional municipal plans offered across the country.

As for the data available here, our data draw on public documents to compile the benefit design elements of public retirement systems. The data are broken out into those plans that we have complete, verified data for at both the state and municipal level, and partial data for plans that we have identified but whose data we are still in the process of compiling and checking for accuracy. It is our hope that releasing these data in their current form will provide researchers a means to explore the retirement benefits being offered to public employees and hopefully to help further the field. We welcome inquiries from any researchers who have questions or who may like any additional assistance when it comes to public retirement benefits.