New Report: Disparities in NY Retirement Coverage

December 5, 2018

ReLab's new report, "Disparities & Erosion in New York’s Workplace Retirement Coverage," documents two trends in retirement plan coverage: 1) retirement plan coverage is declining for all New Yorkers, and 2) disparities in coverage continue to exist based on race, education and income. 

The report documents the changes in retirement plan coverage for New Yorkers between two time periods, 2013-2015 and 2015-2017. 


  • In 2015-2017, only 42% of employed New York State residents ages 25-64 were covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, down 5 percentage points from 2 years prior.
  • Coverage in New York City is even lower, with just 35% covered by a retirement plan in 2017.
  • Though retirement plan coverage in New York State is 2 percentage points higher than the national average, coverage has fallen for two decades.
  • Since the creation of the 401(k) in 1978, defined benefit and 401(k)-type coverage in the United States has declined for all income groups.


  • Workplace retirement plan coverage remains lower for Hispanic (34%, no change) and Asian (34%, down 4) workers than for white (46%, down 4) and black (42%, down 4) workers.
  • Just 49 percent of workers in the top 10% of the income distribution (over $118,000) had a retirement plan in 2017, down 9 percentage points.
  • Coverage of workers in the next 40% of earners (between $39,000 and $118,000) fell 4 percentage points to 54%.
  • Low-income workers were less likely to have a workplace retirement plan, with 33% of workers in the bottom half of the income distribution reporting being covered by a plan, down 1 point from 2013- 201

Downward Mobility

  • Inadequate retirement coverage and savings exposes workers to the risk of experiencing a sharp decline in their living standards when they retire.
  • For some, a reduction in income will mean deprivation and downward mobility into poverty when they retire.
  • ReLab projects that out of 2 million older workers in New York State ages 50-60 and their spouses who are not poor or near poor, 825,000 – or 41% – will fall into poverty or near poverty when they retire at 62.

Authors: Teresa Ghilarducci and Michael Papadopoulos
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