Public Retirement Research Database

Comprehensive open-source data on public retirement finance, benefits, and beyond.

About The Public Retirement Research Database

Equable Institute’s Public Retirement Research Database is an open-source tool designed to provide access to the most up-to-date data on U.S. public retirement systems.

In recent years, a hypercomplex political and economic landscape has led to a wide range of claims about public sector pension plans. Our team has collected a comprehensive set of important information about state and local retirement plans that can be used by academic researchers, journalists, or other policy experts.

This database includes four core datasets and an ever-growing catalogue of special datasets, including:

– 20+ years of public retirement system finance data

– 340 benefit provisions available to over public sector new hires

– Retirement security data for hundreds of public retirement plans

– The sources of unfunded liabilities for state and local retirement systems

Core Public Retirement Datasets

Equable Defined Benefit Finance Database

Download data for 230 state defined benefit retirement plans - including pension plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans.

• Includes data for 20+ years spanning 180 different retirement systems.
• Features variables noting plans’ funded status, investments, contributions, & more.
• These data include both state administered and municipally administered plans.
• For subsets of these data, please see “Special Datasets: Finance Datasets” below.

*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.

Last updated: 25 January 2024

Click here for full documentation on the Equable Finance Data Base

Equable Public Retirement Benefits Database

Download data for 706 active retirement plans and classes of benefits, including pension plans, defined contribution plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans.

• Also includes topline information about several hundred legacy retirement plans and classes of benefits that are not open to new members, but still have active participants or beneficiaries.
• These data also include benefit provisions for state administered plans and municipally administered plans.
• For subsets of these data, please see “Special Datasets: Benefits Datasets” below.

*Note: Benefit data include all active classes or tiers of benefits and all legacy tiers that still have substantial members (either active or retired) or beneficiaries for which data are available.

Last updated: October 2022

Retirement Security Report Database

Download data for 345 active state defined benefit retirement plans, including pension plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans.

• Also includes a listing of 428 plans and classes of benefits that are municipally administered or no longer open to new members that will be included in future analyses.
• These data provide the scores awarded to each plan in Equable’s Retirement Security Report.
• For a teacher-specific subset of these data (that includes all legacy and municipal teacher plans), please see “Special Datasets: RSR Teacher Plans.”

*Note: These data draw on the Equable Benefits Database to calculate scores, but do not currently include all classes or tiers of benefits detailed in the Benefits Database.

Last Updated: October 2022

Sources of State Unfunded Liabilities

Download data outlining the causes of unfunded liabilities for 145 state retirement plans over the past 20+ years.

• Data include detailed breakdowns of actuarial gain/loss data as reported by the plans to explain more than $1.3 trillion in unfunded liabilities through 2020.
• These data are currently limited to state-administered retirement systems.

*Note: Actuarial gain/loss data are limited in their reporting, which is why there are fewer plans covered here than in the Equable Finance Database.

Last updated: October 2022

Special Public Retirement Datasets

Defined Benefit Finance Datasets

Public Retirement Benefits Datasets

Retirement Security Report Datasets

Where We Get Data and Why We are Publishing This Public Retirement Research Database

There are a variety of different data sources covering both public pension funding and benefits. Researchers with the ability to collect primary source data should do so when possible. However, 50 state analyses are often complex projects that require substantial resources to survey. And adding to the complexity of public pension analysis is that from state to state the sources of data are highly variable and decentralized.

As part of Equable’s mission, we aim to improve the public’s general understanding of state and local pensions, and apply a rigorous framework to the collection and publication of data. We believe in open-source data as an institutional value and encourage all other non-profit organizations to similarly recognize that if they believe they are providing a public good that they should enable researchers, academics, journalists, and interested members of the public to look for themselves at data collected.

In January 2021, we published an essay called “A Pension Data Primer: What to Look for and Where” that outlined the various trade-offs between different sources for data on public pensions, and how any such dataset (including ours) should be assessed.

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 both the RSR project and the other research projects we have completed to date within Equable’s Public Retirement Research Database.

In all, we are publishing multiple datasets that offer a wealth of information about public retirement systems across the country.

The Equable Defined Benefit Finance Database provides a collection of some of the most commonly sought-after measures of retirement system funding, investment performance, contributions, and more for the past 20+ years. These data include over 225 defined benefit retirement plans with more than $1 billion in liabilities, administered both at the state and municipal levels. We will continue to expand our data coverage to include more municipal plans and will offer periodic updates to ensure our data reflect the most current totals reported by the retirement systems.

The Equable Public Retirement Benefits Database provides some level of coverage for more than 700 plans or classes of benefits addressing the benefits offered by final average salary pension plans, defined contribution plans, guaranteed return plans, and hybrid plans. 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.

The Equable Retirement Security Report Database offers the complete results of our research and provides each of the scores that can be found in the RSR interactive tool linked here.

The Equable Sources of State Unfunded Liabilities Database provides a compilation of available actuarial gain/loss data for state administered retirement systems to offer insights into the root causes behind unfunded liabilities from 2001 through 2020.

As for each of the databases available here, our data draw on public documents to compile all of our variables ranging from plan funding and investment performance to the benefit design elements of public retirement systems. These data include those where we have complete, verified data for at both the state and municipal level, and partial data 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 state of retirement funding and the retirement benefits being offered to public employees 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.


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