Public Pension Governance, Funding, and Performance: A Longitudinal Appraisal

Tongxuan (Stella) Yang and Olivia S. Mitchell

Abstract — Pension plans covering US public sector employees now face the twin challenges of poor asset returns and rapid increases in liabilities, producing the worst pension funding outcomes in decades. This paper explores how public pension plan investment performance and funding is related to several structural and pension design features. Using a new longitudinal dataset on state and local public pension plans, we evaluate how investment performance is tied to stock funding ratios and how stock funding ratio in turn affects flow funding efforts. We find that particular governance structures can enhance public pension plan investment performance and funding status, and we suggest ways in which public plan design might be improved.