The Survey of Consumer Finance found that the sharpest decline in plan participation was concentrated among workers under 45, male workers, non-white workers, those who did not attend college and those with household incomes in the bottom half of the income distribution. A more detailed demographic breakdown found that:
- Participation fell from 40.5% in 2001 to 35.6% in 2004 for workers under 35, and fell 4.2% for those between 35 and 44 years old.
- For non-white workers, retirement participation fell from 45.7% in 2001 to 39.1% in 2004.
- Workers in the lowest income quartile, participation in employer-sponsored retirement plans fell from 23.2% in 2001 to 18.7% in 2004.
The number of households that held at least one retirement account, 401(k), IRA, or other, dropped from 56.3 million in 2004 from 56.9 million in 2001. The proportion of households that owned an account fell from 53.4% in 2001 to 50.2% in 2004, while the median balance in those accounts rose from $30,462 in 2001 to $36,000 in 2004.
The number of households that owned a defined contribution (DC) plan from current or past employment climbed from 38.3 million in 2001 to 38.8 million in 2004, with the median balance in the accounts rising from $19,172 in 2001 to $28,000 in 2004.
The number of households that held IRA or Keogh plans dropped from 33.4 million in 2001 to 32.6 million in 2004. The survey found that the median balance in these accounts rose from $28,758 in 2001 to $30,000 in 2004.
The study suggests that as the changeover from defined benefits to defined contribution shifts more of the responsibility for maintaining retirement accounts to the employee and away from the employer, workers need to be more active in saving for retirement.