Public Pensions: State-Administered Defined Benefit Data Summary Report: 2012

August 2013
Report Number: G12-CG-SPP-ST (RV)
Erika Becker-Medina and Katheryn Brigham


This report is part of a continuing series designed to provide information on the structure, function, employment, and finances of the United States’ nearly 90,000 state and local governments. The U.S. Census Bureau produces data quinquennially as part of the Census of Governments (CoG) in years ending in “2” and “7.” Additional statistics are produced annually and quarterly during the intercensal period from data collected from a series of surveys. These surveys provide a wealth of information on state and local government employment and financial activity.

This publication presents data on state-administered public pension systems based on information collected from the 2012 Census of Governments: Finance—Survey of Public Pensions. The data collected from these systems are for defined benefit plans only and do not include data for defined contribution plans or other postemployment benefit plans. Data in this report refer to fiscal years that ended between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012 (FY2012), and do not reflect data for the entire calendar year of 2012.

This survey covers the following retirement system activities: revenues by state (earnings on investments, employee contributions, government contributions); expenditures by state (benefits, withdrawals, other payments); cash and investment holdings by state (governmental securities, corporate stocks and bonds, foreign and international securities, etc.); membership information by state (number of retirement systems, total members, beneficiaries receiving periodic payments); and liabilities information by state (covered payroll and pension obligations) for state-administered retirement systems only.

For Census Bureau statistical purposes, a public-employee retirement system is one that is financed by a separate accounting fund of the administering government, excluding pay-as-you-go insurance plans. It must have some type of assured revenue stream or dedicated revenue source other than appropriations from the administering government.

Other criteria exist for membership, such as funding and organization. A retirement system’s members must consist of current or former public employees who are eligible for inclusion in the employment component of the CoG. A retirement system must have at least one separate identifiable fund within a recognized government unit, and it must be funded completely or partially with public contributions. A retirement system must also be recognized as a government unit (as defined by the Census Bureau) that provides revenues, expenditures, financial assets, and membership information for public-employee retirement systems.

Each retirement system is considered an agency of the corresponding government, but the information in this publication reflects only the retirement system portion of revenues, expenditures, and assets.