EBSA's research expands knowledge of employee benefits and their role in meeting the economic security needs of the Nation. EBSA conducts and disseminates economic and policy research designed to advance EBSA's mission, "improving health benefits and retirement security for all workers." EBSA's research program fulfills the Secretary of Labor authorization and directive to conduct research related to employee benefit plans under Section 513(a) of ERISA.

EBSA applies current economic theory to better understand the ways in which economic and demographic forces influence private employee benefits, and the ways in which employee benefits interact with public social insurance programs and influence economic behavior. EBSA also conducts quantitative and policy analysis of current legislative and regulatory issues relating to private employee benefits. EBSA communicates with the employee benefits policy/research community via written materials and briefings.

Each year, most private pension and many private welfare benefit plans satisfy their annual reporting requirement by filing a Form 5500 Annual Return/Report regarding their financial condition, investments, and operations with the Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. EBSA discloses Form 5500 data collected through the EFAST systems in a variety of formats. The unedited data is provided through the Form 5500 Raw Data Sets while a pension research sample and a health data set are available for download on this Web page. The pension research sample supports analysis of the plan, participant, and financial characteristics of the private pension plan universe and is used to produce the Private Pension Plan Bulletin Abstract of Form 5500 Annual Reports, an annual publication that summarizes data on private pension plans. The health data set supports analysis of health plans that are required to file a Form 5500 and is used to produce the Annual Report on Self-Insured Group Health Plans, as required by Section 1253 of the Affordable Care Act.

EBSA funds research into employee benefits issues using competitively bid research contracts. The current contracts are with the following research organizations: Advanced Analytical Consulting Group, Actuarial Research Corporation, BrightScope, IMPAQ International, Maryn Consulting, RAND Corporation, Resolution Economics Group, Summit Consulting, and the Urban Institute. These contractors are engaged to conduct the following work:

  • Develop statistical data on employee benefit plans and to provide technical assistance with the compilation of data directly related to the analysis of employee benefits policies, legislation and regulations;
  • Estimate the costs, benefits, or other impacts of proposed new policies, legislation and regulations;
  • Conduct more traditional economic research studies with application to a broad array of employee benefits policy issues; and
  • Provide analytical and statistical tools that can enhance EBSA's program functions such as enforcement.