This paper considers the changing social institution of employersponsored pensions within the framework of the sociology of risk. Employer-sponsored pensions are elements of a variable and changing occupational welfare system in which the risk and responsibilities for retirement income security have shifted from employer to worker through the expanding role of third-party vendors (insurers). Risk processes can be identified at the employer, insurer, family, and individual levels. This system can be conceptualized as a hierarchy of risk that begins at the organizational level with employer sponsorship of alternative pension plans and extends to the allocation of workers across pension jobs, to worker decisions regarding pension participation and investment of funds, and to final pension balances. Embedded in this multi-level risk system are gender differences that further stratify the aging workforce. We discuss the implications of these changes for future research on life course and retirement and recommend that risk preferences be examined within the contexts of the workplace and the household.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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