By one estimate, public employee pensions across the U.S. are underfunded by $1.1 trillion. Others say the underfunding levels are much larger. What, exactly, are the problems associated with public employee pensions? How and why did those problems come about? And what are the likely consequences for state and local governments, for government employees, and for the citizens of the United States? This talk will focus on the politics behind the nation’s pension problems: how and why public pension benefits have been expanded over the years, the political considerations of those who are charged with fully funding those benefits, and the political factors that shape how local governments across the country respond to their rising pension costs.
Sarah Anzia studies American politics with a focus on state and local government, interest groups, political parties, and public policy. Her book Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups examines how the timing of elections can be manipulated to affect both voter turnout and the composition of the electorate, which, in turn, affects election outcomes and public policy. She also studies the role of government employees and public-sector unions in elections and policymaking in the U.S. She has also written about the politics of public pensions, women in politics, the historical development of electoral institutions, and the power of political party leaders in state legislatures. She has a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and an M.P.P. from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.