Health and Retirement Benefits: Data from Two BLS Surveys

By Herz, Diane E.; Meisenheimer, Joseph R., II et al. | Monthly Labor Review, March 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Health and Retirement Benefits: Data from Two BLS Surveys

Herz, Diane E., Meisenheimer, Joseph R., II, Weinstein, Harriet G., Monthly Labor Review

Both the household-based Current Population Survey and the establishment-based Employee Benefits Survey have strengths and limitations with respect to collecting information on health and retirement benefits: demographic information is best obtained from household surveys; details of benefit plans are best collected from establishments

Employee benefits are an important aspect f job quality. In assessing the quality of different types of jobs, workers, employers, and researchers often consider benefits along with other characteristics of jobs, such as pay, job security, job safety, and the type of work involved.(1) Many employers are concerned about the cost of benefits, which compose 28 percent of compensation costs for employers in the private sector and State and local governments.(2)Public policymakers also frequently focus on employee benefits. For example, many observers have expressed concern in recent years about the number of Americans who lack health insurance. In response, policymakers have debated whether universal health coverage should be a national goal. Central to that debate are the role employer-provided health insurance plays in the current health care system and what role it might play in any proposed new system. Employer-provided retirement plans also have been the subject of public policy discussions. As the baby-boom generation--he huge cohort of Americans born between 1946 and 1964--approaches retirement age, concern has arisen about whether Social Security and private pension plans can withstand the strain of providing retirement income to so many people.(3)

Clearly, having accurate information on employee benefits is important for workers, employers, and public policymakers.(4) Two BLS surveys provide estimates of participation in employee benefits plans: the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Employee Benefits Survey (EBS). The is a monthly survey of 50,000 households from which information is obtained on employment, unemployment, demographics, earnings, and more. The CPS is jointly conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of the Census. The EBS obtains data from establishments on the number of participants in a variety of employee benefits plans and the detailed provisions of those plans. The EBS is being incorporated into the National Compensation Survey, which, when fully integrated, will provide measures of occupational earnings, trends in compensation costs, and participation in, and details of, benefit plans.(5)

This article compares information that the CPS and EBS provide on two of the most important categories of benefits: health and retirement plans. According to the CPS, 66 percent of full-time workers in the private sector participated in a health plan provided by their employer in 1995. The EBS indicates that 71 percent of full-time private-sector workers participated in an employer-provided health plan. The gap between the two surveys is greater in regard to participation in retirement plans: the CPS indicates that 49 percent of full-time workers in the private sector participated in an employer-provided retirement plan in 1995; the comparable figure from the EBS is 60 percent.

The material that follows is intended as a guide for researchers, public policymakers, and others to understand the strengths and limitations of CPS and EBS data on employee benefits. Among the topics examined are differences in estimates derived from the two surveys and possible reasons for inconsistencies between them. The types of information that each survey provides also are described.

Data on prevalence of benefits

Although the CPS is a monthly survey, it does not include questions each month on employee benefits. Rather, supplementary questions on benefits have appeared periodically in the CPS since the early 1970s. CPS supplementary surveys on employer-provided benefits were conducted in April 1972, in May of 1979, 1983, and 1988, and in April 1993.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Health and Retirement Benefits: Data from Two BLS Surveys


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?