The performance of US pension funds

We document the net equity performance of US de¯ned bene¯t and de¯ned contribution schemes at plan level, using a unique and comprehensive database. Pension fund performance is measured taking into account fund-specific benchmarks and multiple cost components. Pension funds perform close to their benchmarks, whereas size-matched mutual fundsstrongly underperform. Cost, risk and style differences do not explain the performance gap between the two institutional arrangements. Our results are consistent with the notion thatpension funds are less exposed to hidden agency costs than mutual funds. Efficient fund pooling provides pension boards with enough negotiating power and monitoring capacity to ensure that institutional asset managers serve the interests of participants.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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