Are City Fiscal Woes Widespread? Are Pensions the Cause?

Alicia H. MunnellJean-Pierre AubryJosh Hurwitz Mark Cafarelli

SLP#36

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.”