ERISA Industry Council to Investigate Retirement Plan Disparities for Minorities, Women

Research has illustrated that women and minorities lag in retirement savings—and now the government is looking into what, if anything, should be done about it.

After hearing testimony in the previous year regarding disparities for women and minorities when it comes to access and utilization of retirement plans, specifically 401(k) plans, the ERISA Advisory Council has decided to investigate this issue further (see “Lost in Translation,” “African-Americans, Hispanics Lag on Retirement Savings,” and “Women Could Face More Savings Shortfalls than Men”).

The council will assemble empirical information from multiple sources to establish a baseline for the state of retirement and health care for minorities and women and to understand the causation of the conditions discovered, according to an Issue Paper. It also expects to solicit data to understand the differences between married women and unmarried women, as well as special issues facing divorced and widowed women.   

The Council will draft recommendations for the Secretary of the Department of Labor to consider. Specifically the study will focus on:

  • identification of the disparities for women and minorities and identifying possible causation;
  • identification of the stakeholders who can influence these results;
  • the role of the Department of Labor in addressing the issues and in influencing stakeholders;
  • benefit plan designs that positively affect these groups;
  • guidance to plan sponsors regarding the collection and utilization of data by race and gender;
  • the appropriateness of costs to the plan and potential liability for the plan sponsors; and
  • identification of additional educational opportunities for plan sponsors, service providers and individuals.