The Employee Benefits Security Administration’s (EBSA) mission is to ensure the security of retirement, health, and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers and their families. In support of this mission, EBSA develops effective regulations; assists and educates workers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, and service providers; and vigorously enforces the law. EBSA conducts and disseminates economic and policy research designed to advance EBSA’s mission and expand knowledge of employee benefits and their role in meeting the economic security of workers, retirees and their families. EBSA’s research program, the Office of Research and Analysis (ORA), fulfills the authorization and directive for the Secretary of Labor to conduct research related to employee benefit plans under Section 513(a) of ERISA.

Economists in the Office of Research and Analysis

ORA applies current economic theory to better understand the ways in which economic and demographic forces influence private sector employee benefits and the ways in which employee benefits interact with public social insurance programs and influence economic behavior. ORA’s economists conduct economic impact analyses of major regulatory actions taken by EBSA, often developing estimates of their costs, benefits, and other impacts. They assess research from academic and industry sources, summarizing their main points, critically analyzing the strength of their conclusions, and examining how their findings can be used to predict the impact of policy proposals. ORA’s economists also assist the agency’s enforcement and reporting compliance programs with data analysis, statistical sampling, and targeting efforts, in order to provide empirical support in demonstrating and quantifying ERISA violations. EBSA communicates with the employee benefits policy and research community via written materials and briefings.

Each year most retirement plans and many health plans offered by employers in the private sector 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 file and a health data set are available for download on this Web page. The pension research file 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 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.

In addition to its internal research, EBSA funds research into employee benefits issues through competitively bid research contracts. This contracted research supports the following functions of ORA:

  • Developing statistical data on employee benefit plans
  • Providing policymakers general technical assistance
  • Estimating the costs, benefits, and other impacts of proposed policies, legislation, and regulations
  • Conducting other economic research studies that apply to a broad array of employee benefits policy issues
  • Producing analytical and statistical tools that enhance ORA’s and other program functions, such as enforcement
  • Data
  • Statistics
  • Analysis
  • Other Collaboration