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Pension-spiking, free-riding, and the effects of pension reform on teachers' earnings

Maria Fitzpatrick ()

Journal of Public Economics, 2017, vol. 148, issue C, 57-74

Abstract: In many states, local school districts are responsible for setting the earnings that determines the size of pensions, but are not required to make contributions to cover the resulting state pension fund liabilities. In this paper, I document evidence that this intergovernmental incentive inherent in public sector defined benefit pension systems distorts the amount and timing of income for public school teachers. I use the introduction of a policy that required experience-rating on earnings increases above a certain limit in a differences-in-differences framework to identify whether districts are willing to pay the full costs of their earnings promises. Because of the design of the policy, overall earnings of teachers near retirement did not change. Instead, districts that previously provided one-time pay increases shifted to smaller increments spread out over several years. In addition, some districts that did not practice pension-spiking prior to the reform appear to begin providing payments up to the new, lower limit, perhaps due to increased salience of the fiscal incentive. Therefore, the policy was ineffective at decreasing pension costs.

Keywords: Intergovernmental incentives; Teacher compensation; Teacher retirement (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H75 H72 H77 J26 I21 I28 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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