Policy Documents

The Real Cost of Public Pensions

Jason Richwine –
May 31, 2012

Policymakers at every level of government are confronting the cost of fringe benefits for public-sector workers. The difficulty of placing an economic value on public employees’ pensions, however, means that policymakers rarely know whether benefits are excessive, especially as interest groups take advantage of the confusion by advancing misleading arguments. This paper discusses how to properly calculate the cost of public defined-benefit pension benefits, compares the cost of these benefits to private-sector retirement plans, and refutes two of the most common arguments that public pension benefits are somehow modest.