What Do We Know About The Universe of State and Local Plans?

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Several surveys report data on public pension plans, but they tend to focus on the major state systems. The Census of Governments is the only source that reports on the entire universe of state-administered plans, in addition to more than 2,000 locally administered plans. This brief describes that population, reports on the investment performance of different types of public plans, and compares the investment performance of public and private plans. Key findings include:

  • State-administered retirement plans account for only 8 percent of total plans, but 88 percent of the active members and 82 percent of the assets.
  • Local plans have more assets per worker, probably because they often cover police and firefighters.
  • Returns in public plans are higher than private plans because they are larger and invest more of their assets in equities.
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