Commentary

State Funded Ratios Over Time

The evolution in funded ratios for state pension plans from 2001-16

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The map above shows how the funded status of defined benefit pension plans have evolved over the past 15 years. Each state’s funded ratio is a weighted average for the largest state-administrated pension plans in that particular state. A funded ratio is simply a measurement of how much a pension plan has saved relative to the benefits it has promised, the percentage is calculated by dividing the market value of assets by the actuarial value liabilities (i.e., the net present value of promised pension checks).

States that report fully funded pension plans (100% or more) are depicted in shades of green. Funding ratios ranging from 70% to 99% are displayed in shades of yellow/orange, while any state that falls below a 70% funded ratio appears in shades of red.

We determined each state’s funded ratio by totaling up the reported actuarially accrued liabilities and market valued assets and then calculating the funded ratio (as opposed to taking the average of funded ratios in the state). This allows for weighted average results based on each plan’s liabilities.

Anthony Randazzo

Anthony Randazzo is director of economic research for Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. His research portfolio is regularly evolving, and he maintains a wide interest in economic policy at both a domestic and international level.

Randazzo is also managing director of the Pension Integrity Project, which provides technical assistance to public sector retirement system stakeholders who are seeking to prevent pension plan insolvency. His research focus on the national public sector pension crisis has a dual focus of identifying the systemic factors that cause public officials to underfund pension obligations as well as studying the processes by which meaningful pension reform can be accomplished. Within the Project he leads the analytics team that develops independent, third party actuarial analysis to stakeholders considering changes to public sector retirement systems.

In addition, Randazzo writes about the moral foundations of economic theory, and is currently developing research on the ways that the moral intuitions of economists influence their substantive findings on topics like income inequality, immigration, or labor policy.

Randazzo's work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Barron's, Bloomberg View, The Washington Times, The Detroit News, Chicago Sun-Times, Orange-County Register, RealClearMarkets, Reason magazine and various other online and print publications.

During his tenure at Reason he has published substantive research on housing finance, financial services regulation, and various other aspects of economic policy at the federal level. And he has written regularly on labor economics, tax policy, privatization, and Turkish-U.S. political and economic issues.

Randazzo has also testified before numerous state and local legislative bodies on pension policy matters, as well as before the House Financial Services Committee on topics related to housing policy and government-sponsored enterprises.

He holds a multidisciplinary M.A. in behavioral political economy from New York University.

Follow Anthony Randazzo on Twitter @anthonyrandazzo

Anil Niraula is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation.

Niraula holds a BS in Business Management and Administration from Touro University (Moscow), MS in International Business from The University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK), and MS in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University.

He is based in Washington, DC.

Zachary Christensen

Zachary Christensen is a policy analyst for Reason Foundation's Pension Integrity Project.

Christensen's public policy research has primarily focused on public sector retirement system finances and pension reform. Prior to joining Reason Foundation, Christensen was a pension finance analyst at the Hoover Institution, where he worked on widely-cited research on the funding status and accounting methods for public sector retirement systems.

Christensen holds an M.S. in Public Policy from Pepperdine University and a B.S. in Political Science from Brigham Young University.