The Political Economy of Public Pensions: Pension Funding, Governance, and Fiscal Stress

Ping-Lung Hsin, Olivia Mitchell


The purpose of this paper is to describe and evaluate how public sector defined benefit pension plans are managed, and to assess possible implications of different pension management styles for promised pension benefits. The authors explore Ihe actuarial and economic assumptions employed by public pension managers when they set funding targets, using a new survey of state and local pension plans in the United States. The analysis shows that key assumptions under the control of public pension plan lrustees are sensitive to factors in the pension environment. An implication of the paper is that public pension funding patterns may become more sensitive to strategic seiection of interest role and other key assumptions as public sector budgets are subjected to fiscal pressures, and when they are managed by participant-run boards.

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