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Are City Fiscal Woes Widespread? Are Pensions the Cause?

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Publication Date: December 2013

Publisher(s): Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Author(s): Alicia H. Munnell; Jean-Pierre Aubry; Joshua Hurwitz; Mark Cafarelli

Series: SLP#36

Special Collection:

Topic: Economics (Economic policy, planning, and development)

Keywords: State and local pensions; state; local; pensions

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


The brief’s key findings are:

Detroit’s bankruptcy and Chicago’s fiscal problems have led some to question whether cities nationwide are in trouble and if pensions are the reason.

But a search for cities identified by the media as financially troubled found only a small number overall, with about one-third located in California.

And, among the financially troubled cities, pensions are only a minor factor; the main drivers are poor financial management and weak economies.

Thus, the answer to both questions appears to be “no.”