Who Uses the Roth 401(K), and How Do They Use it?

33 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2013

See all articles by John Beshears

John Beshears

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

James J. Choi

Yale School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Brigitte C. Madrian

Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2013

Abstract

Using administrative data from twelve companies that added a Roth 401(k) option between 2006 and 2010, we describe the characteristics of Roth contributions. Approximately one year after the Roth is introduced, 9% of 401(k) participants have positive Roth balances. Roth participation is more than twice as high among 401(k) participants who were hired after the Roth introduction than among 401(k) participants who were hired before the Roth introduction. In essence, once an employee joins a 401(k) she becomes passive/inattentive, thereby reducing the likelihood of reacting to the introduction of a new Roth option. Conditional on contributing to the Roth, 66% of employee contributions go to the Roth, and half of employees contribute to both the Roth and another 401(k) account, consistent with a tax diversification motive. Roth usage is decreasing in age, less likely among women, and only weakly correlated with salary and tenure once we control for other employee characteristics.

Suggested Citation

Beshears, John and Choi, James J. and Laibson, David I. and Madrian, Brigitte C., Who Uses the Roth 401(K), and How Do They Use it? (July 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19193. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2289103

John Beshears (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

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James J. Choi

Yale School of Management ( email )

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David I. Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Brigitte C. Madrian

Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business ( email )

Provo, UT 84602
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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