EBRI: Women Edge Out Men in Retirement Plans

Women ages 21 to 64 have a slight edge when it comes to saving for retirement in an employer plan, according to a new study.

A news release from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) said that 56.4% of women in that age group – with the group considered to have the strongest workforce connection – save for their Golden Years in a workplace plan. That compares to 53.7% of men in the same age group and focuses on full-time, full-year wage and salary workers. Both levels were down about two percentage points from 2004, according to the EBRI data.

Meanwhile, looking at poll numbers for all workers, men had about a 1% lead over women with 41.3 % of men participating in plans, compared to 40.4 % participation for women.

“It appears that female workers’ lower probability of participation in the aggregate was a result of their overall lower earnings and lower rates of full-time work in comparison with males,” wrote Craig Copeland, EBRI senior research associate and author of the study.

Significant differences appeared when wage and salary workers ages 21 to 64 were separated into public and private sectors. Slightly less than 75% of public-sector workers participated in an employment-based retirement plan in 2005, compared to 41.7% of private-sector workers.

Other highlights include:

  • About 58% of all working-age (21 – 64) wage and salary employees worked for an employer or union that sponsored a retirement plan in 2005. Of those, slightly less than half (47%) participated in a retirement plan in 2005, down from 48.3% a year earlier.
  • Among full-time, full-year wage and salary workers of both sexes, about 55% participated in a retirement plan in 2005, down from almost 57% a year earlier.
  • Hispanic wage and salary workers were significantly less likely (about 28%) than either white (nearly 52%) or black (43%) workers to participate in a retirement plan.
  • Wage and salary workers in the South, West, and Southwest had the lowest levels of participation, while those in the upper Midwest and Northeast had the highest levels. Florida (38%) had the lowest participation level, while Minnesota had the highest (56%).

Overall, participation in retirement plans increased significantly when the labor market was tight in the late 1990s and decreased when unemployment went up in 2001 and 2002, the study reported. With a more stable job market in 2003 and 2004, the participation trend flattened out.

The EBRI report is online here