Public pensions a strong economic force

U.S. systems have $5.3 trillion in assets, membership of nearly 27 million

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

April 25, 2024 – A pension industry database reports that defined benefit plans wield significant economic influence in the United States, boasting assets totaling $5.3 trillion.

Public Plans Data, a website housing comprehensive information on state and local pensions and retiree health plans, says there are more than 5,000 public-sector retirement plans in the country dating back to the 19th century. Their membership is substantial, with 14.9 million active workers and 12 million retirees. These retirees collectively receive about $334 billion annually in benefit distributions.

A collaboration between the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and the MissionSquare Research Institute, the website garners support from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. NASRA’s contributions include reviewing data models, validating data and overseeing the development and administration of surveys used to collect data, which covers fiscal years 2001 to 2022.

It encompasses statistics from 210 state and local pension plans, representing more than 95% of U.S. state and local plan assets and members.

The database website offers “quick-fact” pages presenting data at national, state, retirement system and retirement plan levels. It has downloadable financial reports and actuarial valuations for all sample plans, alongside an advanced interactive data browser for tailored searches.

Exploring the site reveals that state and local public employees account for between 10% and 15% of the U.S. workforce, with nearly a fourth of them not covered by Social Security. This group comprises almost half of all teachers and more than two-thirds of firefighters and public safety officers.

The site also provides information on pension plans by state, facilitating comparisons among different systems and against national averages. For instance, examining Ohio in the “Quick Facts” section reveals data about the state’s four largest statewide public pension plans, with OPERS boasting the highest funded ratio among the state plans, about 7 percentage points higher than the national average.

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

2 thoughts on “Public pensions a strong economic force

  • May 6, 2024 at 4:20 pm

    Inflation is still high. You posted our pension percentage before 2024. Why so low?

    • May 6, 2024 at 5:00 pm


      The blog reflected what was in the Public Plans Database, which is not affiliated with OPERS.


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