How Have Public Sector Pensions Responded to the Financial Crisis?

Andrew G. Biggs

Abstract — State and local government pension funds lost nearly $1 trillion in net assets in 2007-08. Average pension funding levels fell from 85 percent in 2007 to 77 percent in 2009. We analyze these patterns by looking at target asset allocations for 29 large public sector plans covering over half of all public pension assets. On average, the standard deviation of target portfolio returns increased slightly and 14 of the 29 plans surveyed increased risk by more than 0.3 percentage points and 8 increased risk by more than one percentage point. Few plans seem to have retreated from risk-taking, while a small number appears to have embraced more risk than before.