U.S. Workers Receive a Wide Range of Employee Benefits

By Grossman, Glenn M. | Monthly Labor Review, September 1992 | Go to article overview

U.S. Workers Receive a Wide Range of Employee Benefits


Grossman, Glenn M., Monthly Labor Review


In 1991, employer-provided benefits accounted for nearly 30 percent of compensation costs. Now, for the first time, comprehensive data are available on the extent of employer-provided benefits available to employees throughout the U.S. economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employee Benefits Survey provides data on the incidence and details of benefit plans offered to employees.

Originally established in 1979, the Employee Benefits Survey has expanded during the past decade to represent more components of the civilian nonfarm economy: small private establishments, State and local governments, part-time employees, and other employees. Data on households and the Federal Government are excluded.

Three parts of the civilian, nonfarm labor force are studied altemately.(1) In even-numbered years, the survey examines benefits available in State and local governments and small private establishments (that is, those with fewer than 100 employees); in odd-numbered years, the survey covers medium and large private establishments.

Data presented in this report are from surveys conducted in 1989 and 1990.(2) About 65 million full-time private industry employees, and 13 million State and local government employees are covered.(3) While the focus is on benefit availability among all workers, obvious differences between small and large establishments or between private industry and government are addressed.

Medical care and life insurance

Employer-provided medical care coverage has been the subject of considerable attention recently. Slightly more than 80 percent of full-time employees received medical care benefits at least partly financed by their employer during the 1989-90 period. (See table 1.) This represents 64 million of the 78 million fulltime employees covered by the survey.

Medical care plans are financed under arrangements which vary depending on whether coverage is for a single participant or for a family. During the period 1989-90, employers paid the entire cost of medical care benefits for three-fifths of participants if individual coverage were chosen, while the remainder shared the costs with their employers. Employers paid the entire cost of family medical care coverage for one-third of participants. (See table 2.)

Medical care benefits in private industry are provided to four-fifths of fulltime employees, while dental care benefits are available to half of all fulltime employees in this sector. Governments have a higher incidence of these benefits. Nine-tenths of full-time State and local government employees have medical care benefits and three-fifths have dental care benefits provided by their employer.

A closer examination of the private sector shows that coverage for medical care benefits varies greatly by establishment size. In medium and large establishments, 9 of 10 employees receive a medical care benefit from their employer; in small establishments, 7 of 10 employees have such a benefit. Dental care benefits are provided to two-thirds of employees in medium and large establishments and to one-third of employees in small establishments.

Among occupational groups in the private sector, white-collar employees participate in health care benefits more often than do blue-collar employees. A little more than 8 of 10 white-collar employees have health care benefits, compared with 3 of 4 blue-collar employees. Dental care benefits are also more prevalent among white-collar employees.

The incidence of life insurance varies little between the private and public sectors. Overall, eight-tenths of all full-time employees are provided life insurance benefits. A little more than one-tenth of employees receiving a life insurance benefit are required to pay part of their premium. In the private sector, employees in larger establishments nearly always receive life insurance benefits, while two-thirds of employees in smaller establishments have such coverage. …

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U.S. Workers Receive a Wide Range of Employee Benefits
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