nr 079 - Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

DNB Working Papers
Date 6 January 2006

Employer matching of employee 401(k) contributions can provide a powerful incentive to save for retirement and is a key component in pension-plan design in the United States. Using detailed administrative contribution, earnings, and pension-plan data from the Health and Retirement Study, this analysis formulates a life-cycle-consistent two-limit censored regression model of 401(k) saving and estimates the effect of matching on 401(k) saving accounting for non-linearities in the household budget set induced by matching. Parametric and semi-parametric estimates indicate that an increase in the match rate by 25 cents per dollar of employee contribution raises 401(k) saving by $500-$800 (in 1991 dollars), and the estimated elasticity of contributions with respect to matching ranges from 0.06-0.17 overall, with two-thirds of this effect on the extensive margin and one-third on the intensive margin. JEL Keywords: Saving (E21), Taxation (H24), Private Pensions (J32).