Pension Gender Gap Lingers

November 6, 2000 ( - The defined contribution balance "gender gap" between the sexes has narrowed somewhat in recent years, due largely to increased savings of middle-aged women.

Still, the average working woman’s accumulated balance was still just 44% of men’s in 1998, according to a new study from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI).


In 1989 women’s defined contribution balances were just 40% of men’s according to the study. The average defined contribution balance of working women rose 53% from 1989 to 1998 to $25,020, compared with a 39% increase for men to $57,239.

By 1998, just 20% of women had their retirement accounts invested mostly in bonds, compared with 32% in 1989. For men, the 31% invested primarily in bonds fell to 14% in 1998.

Opposite Directions

The survey found that about 45% of women aged 18-62 participated in a pension or retirement plan in 1998, up slightly from 43% in 1989. During the same period, male participation slipped slightly to 52% from 53%.

The percentage of employed women participating in “traditional” defined benefit pensions fell from 28% to 16% during the period, while the percentage participating in defined contribution plans increased from 23% to 33%. Men participated at 19% and 40% rates respectively in 1998.

The report is based on data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, which is conducted every three years by the Federal Reserve.