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Fewer workers have employer-provided pension plans in 2009 than they did in 1979.  Among workers who are enrolled in a pension plan, defined-contribution plans—which shift more risk onto workers—have become more common.  This chart shows the striking disparities between access to pensions across racial and ethnic groups.  Furthermore, it demonstrates the growth in inequitable pension coverage over time.  In 1979, non-Hispanic whites were 37% more likely to have a pension than Hispanics, but they were over twice as likely to have a pension by 2009.

Employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) remains the main form of coverage for non-elderly Americans, but such coverage has eroded each year since 2000, now covering 25 million fewer Americans than it would have if the 2000 coverage rate had remained constant. Employer-sponsored insurance coverage fell 5.4 percentage points even over the full business cycle (peak-to-peak) from 2000 to 2007. Declines continued even after the 2001 recession ended and the economy expanded (albeit weakly). Losses in ESI moderated considerably as the economy finally began adding jobs in 2003, but losses continued unabated nonetheless. These relatively small declines in coverage over the expansion increased as the recession took hold in 2008 and accelerated as the unemployment rate soared in 2009.

Higher household incomes are strongly associated with an increased likelihood of having employment-based coverage. In 2009, only 16.3% of those in the bottom income fifth had ESI compared with 84.9% of those in the top fifth, a five-fold difference in the likelihood of being insured through work. Each income group experienced losses over the 2000s, but the declines were much greater for those at the bottom. Those in the second lowest income fifth were hit the worst since in the recession, experiencing a two-year loss of 7.2%, and a total decline of 15.3% since 2000.

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