Census Data for Public Pension Plans

The Survey of Public Pensions: State- and Locally-Administered Defined Benefit Data provides revenues, expenditures, financial assets, and membership information for the defined benefit public pensions. Data are shown for individual pension funds and systems as well as at the national, state, and local level. There were 299 state-administered funds and 5,977 locally-administered defined benefit public pension systems, all of which are represented here.

Liabilities are provided only for the state plans and here are the pertinent totals from a generated spreadsheet:

  • Assets: $3,055 billion
  • Liabilities: $4,198 billion
  • Funded Percentage: 72.78%
  • Active Participants: 12,765,184
  • Terminated Participants: 5,881,705
  • Retirees: 8,791,392
  • Employee Contributions: $43.2 billion
  • Government Contributions: $107.2 billion
  • Total Payments: $248.1 billion
  • Other Investments portion of assets: $414.7 billion

Four states have funded percentages below 50%:

For New Jersey anyway the liabilities are not GASB but rather what is in the valuation reports to determine those mini-contributions. Replacing the $152 billion valuation liability amount with even the July 1, 2015 GASB68 amount of $217 billion reduces that NJ funded percentage to 33.65%.

Then we come to that 24.19% number which represents the percentage of New Jersey trust assets in “Other Investments”, double the overall average and even those of the three other troubled states.

The US census data also listed local plans but did not provide any liability amounts so that spreadsheet does not yield any funded status but we do get:


  • Assets: $684 billion
  • Active Participants: 1,885,707
  • Terminated Participants: 391,765
  • Retirees: 1,527,573
  • Employee Contributions: $7.9 billion
  • Government Contributions: $33.4 billion
  • Total Payments: $55.5 billion
  • Other Investments portion of assets: $78.6 billion


And for those four troubled states:

18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by skip3house on May 28, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Not very popular, but simple until funding is better controlled, just reduce benefits to what the funding can support now, with change to contributions each year, not defined benefits.
    After NJ gets balanced, it can add higher contributions if approved, but at least now the NJ workers need figures they can count on, not false political promises.


    • Posted by Anonymous on May 28, 2017 at 4:43 am

      That’ll be a long time coming if the fund doesn’t run out of money first .Total inflows were 5.8 Billion minus investment loss 1.9 billion and total outflows 10.4 billion .Talk about race to the bottom …


  2. Posted by Anonymous on May 28, 2017 at 9:36 am

    The Government contributions to NJ is less than 1/2 of all other states? Could that be part of the problem?


    • Posted by S Moderation Douglas on May 28, 2017 at 10:48 am



    • Posted by Anonymous on May 28, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      No, “Funding requirements” are a function-of, and directly proportional to the “generosity” of the Plan’s benefits. What IS relevant, is how generous, and hence how costly those promised pension benefits are.

      AND with VERY VERY few exceptions, Public Sector Final Average Salary DB pensions are 2 to 4 times (4 to 6 times for Safety workers) “greater in value” upon retirement than those typically granted similarly situated Private Sector workers.

      As I’ve stated before……….. The lack of full funding is not the CAUSE of the pension mess we are now in, but the CONSEQUENCE of the real root cause ….. grossly excessive pension “generosity”.


      • Posted by Anonymous on May 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm

        don’t put the cart before the horse


        • Posted by Anonymous on May 29, 2017 at 1:03 am

          I haven’t put the cart before the horse. BEFORE you can determine the required funding your MUST have the full description of all element of the promised pension benefits …. i.e. the Plan’s “generosity”.

          Unlike you (and certainly SMD), I have no reason to hide the elements upon which “funding requirement” depend and the way funding requirement are computed.


  3. Posted by Anonymous on May 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Who says filing for bankruptcy and shedding some of their P&B obligation hasn’t hurt the Motor City. While Trenton, NJ tops the list real estate in this zip code has always been weak and it’s the only NJ town on the list.



  4. Posted by Anonymous on May 29, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Up in smoke, that’s right Zippo – DB to DC and back again?


  5. Posted by George on May 29, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Total Membership LOCAL NJ is 813 people? Is that right?

    NY LOCAL, I guess mostly NYC+downstate, is 486,745 members. So that might explain NYS 100% funding.


    • New York City local is the New York City system only.

      The New York State pension system covers local government workers everywhere else in the state.

      The New York City system is one of the most underfunded in the country. The New York State system is one of the most fully funded in the country. The same state legislature sets the rules for both.

      And over the decades NYC taxpayers have contributed far more as a percent of payroll to the NYC system than local taxpayers in there rest of the state or the state itself have contributed to the New York State system.

      HOW? Great mystery. A question no one wants asked.


      • Posted by Anonymous on May 29, 2017 at 7:59 pm

        A likely answer is that NYC Plans are “richer” or that a much larger proportion of all NYC workers are Safety workers with the far richer pensions.

        Do you think a 50% COLA-increased pension after only 20 years is cheap”


        • Posted by George on May 29, 2017 at 10:12 pm

          Local+State plan participants:
          NJ: 813+552,651 = 553,464
          NY:486,745+913,749 = 1,400,494

          NY has 2.53 times as many plan participants as NJ? Is that right? Are lots of local participants also state participants? 2.53 times doesn’t seem possible.

          Total beneficiaries receiving periodic benefit payments
          Nj: 851 + 319,901=320,752
          NY: 316,322+ 601,844=918166
          NY = 2.86 x NJ


          • Posted by George on May 30, 2017 at 10:09 am

            oops showing my age, back in the day NJ had 8 million people, NY 12. 12/8 = 1.5

            More recent: NY/NJ =19.7/8.95 = 2.2 , so 2.5 to 2.8 is not unthinkable. But it does look like adding people does not reduce the relative need for bureaucrats. People looking to consolidate towns take note.

            So it does look like NYS is sort of hiding what might be going on by splitting the pension accounting into a public 100% funded for the state, and a who knows what for the city. It is also a bad sign that the number of retirees (voters) in the NYS system is high, although maybe upstate will not vote to help down state. So the relationship might be different than NJ. As long as the downstate economy is able to bail itself out maybe no problem, but upstate (Xerox Kodak) is no longer able to bail out downstate like it did in the 70s.

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