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In that table, Social Security contributions are subsumed into a larger category that also includes Medicare, worker’s compensation, and federal and state unemployment insurance.
Although the BLS has been reporting quarterly fringe-benefit cost data for various public and private employee groups for more than a decade, only since March 2004 has the bureau broken out these fringe-benefit cost data for public school K–12 teachers.
First, nearly all teachers are covered by traditional defined benefit (DB) pension plans, in which employees receive a regular retirement check based on a legislatively determined formula. Department of Education data show a median retirement age for public school teachers of 58 years, compared to about 62 for the labor force as a whole.
These plans have, over the years, come to offer retirement at relatively young ages, at a rate that replaces a substantial portion of final salary. A teacher in her mid-50s who has worked for 30 years under a typical teacher pension plan will be entitled to an annuity at retirement of between 60 and 75 percent of her final salary.
Finally, while Mishel and Rothstein state that the appropriate comparison is with private-sector professionals, this group includes all state and local government professionals, too.
The same BLS report provides separate tables with data for the two appropriate occupational groups: public school K–12 teachers and private-sector “management, professional, and related” workers. Confounding Social Security Contributions Mishel and Rothstein are unable to isolate Social Security contributions with the table they use.
We measure the cost of retirement benefits as a percentage of earnings.