I've finally read my copy of January's Notes, the monthly newsletter from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. (They need more exciting covers.) It features lots of charts on how educational attainment and other demographic factors affect pensions. For example, people with graduate degrees are the most likely to collect retirement benefits -- but middle-income workers are more likely to be getting benefits (though they're less generous) than high-income workers. Also, there remains a big gender gap, with the median annual pension for a man at $14,280 and for a woman at $7,848.
The differences between private- and public-sector employees are also striking. Among people over 50, 12.6 percent of people who had worked in the private sector were collecting pensions or retirement annuities as of 2006, compared with only 7.5 percent of people who had worked for the government. But the mean annual income from pensions and annuities was much higher for public-sector retirees ($17,974) than for private-sector retirees ($8,148). This is nothing new: the public-private ratio has been a bit more than 2 to 1 for at least the past 30 years. And it doesn't seem likely that the gap will narrow, given that private employers are cutting back on retirement benefits. As the EBRI authors note: "future retirees will likely be more reliant on assets they must manage themselves instead of receiving a stream of income for life (i.e., an annuity)."