Higher Salaries or Higher Pensions? Inferring Preferences from Teachers' Retirement Behavior

65 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2017 Last revised: 2 Nov 2019

See all articles by Barbara Biasi

Barbara Biasi

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

Date Written: October 31, 2019


Many US workers receive a large portion of their lifetime compensation in the form of retirement pensions. How do changes in pensions vis à vis salaries affect labor supply and retirement? This paper examines the retirement responses to a reform that changed salaries and pensions of public school teachers in a staggered fashion. On one hand, the reform lowered older teachers' gross salaries and, in turn, their future pension benefits; on the other it increased employees' contributions to the pension fund, lowering net salaries but leaving pensions unchanged. I use the staggered timing of implementation of these two provisions to estimate bounds to the income and substitution effects of salaries and pensions. These estimates suggest large substitution effects and more moderate income effects. They also indicate that workers are more responsive to changes in salaries than to equally sized changes in pensions. I find support for three possible explanations for this finding: a) a lack of salience/information on pensions, and b) credit constraints. I use the estimated elasticities to evaluate the effect of an alternative budget-saving policy that reduces pensions instead of net salaries. This alternative policy would lead to fewer, older, and lower-quality teachers retiring compared with the actual reform.

Keywords: Retirement, Salaries, Pensions, Teachers

JEL Classification: H55, J26, J32, J45, H75, H52

Suggested Citation

Biasi, Barbara, Higher Salaries or Higher Pensions? Inferring Preferences from Teachers' Retirement Behavior (October 31, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3058384 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3058384

Barbara Biasi (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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