© Copyright 2003 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning
Who Has Access to Employer-Provided Benefits in Wyoming?
by: Mark Harris, Sociologist, Ph.D.
"Overall, the largest gap in access to benefits is the difference between full- and part-time employees."
Benefits are a major issue for Wyoming workers, employers, and government. They are of interest to Wyoming workers seeking to secure health insurance and retirement benefits for themselves and their dependents. Public and private organizations are concerned because affordable benefits are an important piece of total compensation for attracting and retaining good employees. Governmental entities are concerned about future taxpayer burdens for those who do not have access to benefits. Given these issues, it is vital to understand the entire benefits picture in Wyoming. This article adds an important piece to that picture.
In a previous publication (hereafter Benefits Survey),1 Research & Planning (R&P) provided detailed information on the characteristics of a representative sample of firms in Wyoming and a description of the types of benefits these firms may offer. The Benefits Survey, however, did not describe the demographic (e.g., age and gender) characteristics of individuals working in these firms. This detail is fundamentally important because it provides information on who has access2 to employer-provided benefits in Wyoming.3
Results indicate that resident full-time employees (compared to part-time employees), middle-aged employees (compared to other age groups), and those working in Government (compared to other industries) are more likely to be offered benefits.
Weighted Merged Benefits Data (WMBD) are used to determine who has access to benefits (see <http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/0203/imputing.htm> for methodological details). The WMBD data represent employees of firms sampled in the Benefits Survey. In addition, we restrict the study to employees who are Wyoming residents4 and have worked for their firms for at least four quarters. Employees who work for an employer for at least one year are more likely to have access to benefits than those with less tenure. The data represent a conservative estimate of who has access to benefits in Wyoming.
Analyses presented in this article report the number of individuals, by age and gender, employed by firms that offer benefits (by benefit type). The results reported for this study do not reflect the actual number of employees who have elected to receive (participate in) a particular benefit.5 Furthermore, this study does not address the quality6 of the benefits offered.
Space limitations prevent us from discussing all of the benefits offered across the age, gender, work status, and industry categories. As such, we restrict our discussion primarily to summary findings and illustrate how the data can be interpreted. Readers can refer to the several tables for specific category comparisons.
Benefit Type and Work Status
Table 1 shows that exposure to benefits varies substantially by benefit type. Among the different types, full-time employees have greatest access to health insurance (92.9%). Among part-time employees, the most common benefit is a retirement plan (38.9%). Both full- and part-time employees have the least exposure to paternity leave7 (11.2% and 4.2%, respectively).
Table 1 also demonstrates that full-time employees have significantly more access to benefits than part-time employees. To illustrate, 91.3 percent of full-time employees have access to paid vacation but only 33.1 percent of part-time employees do.
Tabular results for industry distributions are presented in Table 2. The percent of full- and part-time resident employees varies substantially across industries. Mining has the highest percentage of full-time employees (98.7%), whereas Retail Trade has the lowest (63.1%). The industry in which one works is a prime determinant of who has access to benefits because of industry variation in the percentages of full- and part-time employment.
Given the volume of exposure numbers presented in Table 2 and the complexity of the embedded patterns, a summary index of industry exposure results are presented in Table 3. A score of one on Table 3 indicates that employees in this industry had the highest relative level of exposure across the different types of benefits.8
As shown in Table 3, Government had the highest overall ranking for full-time employees exposed to benefits, followed by Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE), Manufacturing, and Mining. Retail Trade, Construction, and Agriculture, respectively, have the lowest overall exposure rankings for full-time employees. The pattern for part-time employees is somewhat different. Government again ranks first, followed by Services, FIRE, and Retail Trade. Construction, Mining, and Agriculture have the lowest overall levels of part-time employees exposed to benefits.
Table 4 indicates that females are more likely than males to be part-time employees (22.2% compared to 11.5%, respectively). When considering only full-time employees, the difference between males and females is negligible. For example, Table 4 shows that full-time females have slightly greater access than males to retirement (86.1% and 85.3%, respectively) and paid vacation (91.5 % and 91.2%, respectively). Males, on the other hand, have slightly greater access to health insurance (93.0% and 92.7%, respectively). With the exception of sick leave (16.5 percentage points), no gender difference for full-time employee benefits is greater than 4.7 percentage points. Apparently, gender is not a significant demarcating factor for exposure to benefits among full-time employees.
Among part-time employees, females have greater exposure to benefits than males across all benefit types. Percentage point differences between female and male part-time employees tend to be larger than that for full-time employees (ranging from 2.0 to 10.7 percentage points). Part-time employees in Construction and Mining are more likely to be male. Agriculture, Construction, and Mining offer the lowest level of benefit access for part-time employees (see Table 2).
Table 5 shows that the Less than 25 and 55 or Older age categories have the highest percentages of part-time employment (43.3% and 15.0%, respectively). Not surprisingly, the youngest age category (Less than 25) has the lowest access to benefits across all benefit types for both full- and part-time employees. With the exception of access to paternity leave, which peaks in the 55 or Older age category (13.3% of full-time employees), access to the full-time benefits shown here increases steadily until it peaks in the 45-54 category. Exposure then declines somewhat in the 55 or Older age category. Paid leave benefits for part-time employees also typically peak in the 45-54 age category. However, for insurance and retirement benefits, exposure for part-time employees peaks in the 35-44 age category.
Observations and Additional Questions
Results of this study are useful in elucidating the benefits exposure profile of Wyoming’s resident employees. Specifically, the descriptive data presented here demonstrate potential areas of concern. Overall, the largest gap in access to benefits is the difference between full- and part-time employees. The majority of full-time employees are exposed to benefits offerings. For many benefit types among full-time employees there is little room for improvement (e.g., 92.9% for health insurance).
We wonder if it might be better for dependent health insurance exposure for Wyoming residents to peak during child bearing years (25-34) and health insurance coverage to peak in later years (i.e., 55 or Older). Other areas of potential benefits coverage mismatch concern full-time paternity leave--where females are more exposed to coverage than males (13.9% compared to 9.2%, respectively).
Although there are fewer full-time females than males (43.6% compared to 56.4%, respectively), results of this survey do not support the contention of a gender bias in exposure to benefits. Full-time females have coverage exposure very similar to full-time males, depending upon benefit type. Our results indicate that improving benefits exposure for women would involve increasing the numbers of women who work full-time. As shown in Table 3, full- and part-time employment varies substantially by industry with part-time employment heavily concentrated in Retail Trade (36.9%) and Services (27.4%). As such, gender differences in access to benefits are primarily a function of what industry individuals work in.
Results from this study indicate that resident full-time employees have distinctively greater exposure to benefits than part-time employees. Also, there are differences between resident female and male exposure to benefits. Part-time females have somewhat of an advantage over males in benefits access. However, full-time males and females have very similar exposure to benefits offerings. Benefits access increases with age, peaks in middle age (35-44 or 45-54, depending upon work status and benefit type), and then declines somewhat in later years. Additionally, both resident full- and part-time employees who work in Government have greater exposure to benefits than employees in other industries.
Benefits exposure data were used in the following article, “Do Benefits Reduce Employee Turnover among Wyoming Firms: A Response to the Workforce Development Council,” to examine hypothesized connections between benefits offerings and employee turnover. Wyoming recently co-authored a publication with six other states (Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) which indicates that, among the seven states, Wyoming has the highest average level of employee turnover.9
1For complete methodology used in the Benefits Survey, see Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Employee Benefits in Wyoming: 2000.
2The terms access and exposure are used interchangeably in this article.
3We do not address who may have access through a spouse’s employer, a professional or trade association, or a government program (e.g., Medicaid).
4Sylvia Jones, “Defining Residency for the Wyoming Workforce,” Wyoming Labor Force Trends, November 2002, pp. 1-9.
5Obtaining this information would require employers to report on benefits participation for each employee, something that is not done in the Benefits Survey. Additional monetary resources, alteration of the survey instrument, and a different collection technique are needed to gather the required data.
6To illustrate, fewer employees could be exposed to health insurance in Firm A than Firm B. However, the quality of insurance (e.g., low deductibles, high employer contribution) may be much better for the employees in Firm A that do have insurance than those in Firm B. Quality issues are beyond the scope of the data collected in the current Benefits Survey.
7The paternity and maternity leave numbers presented here are beyond what is required by law under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
8Specifically, for each benefit type, a ranking from one to ten, representing highest to lowest percent exposure, was assigned to each industry. These rankings were then summed within each industry across all benefit types. The industry with the lowest sum (i.e., the one offering the overall greatest relative exposure to benefits) was assigned a score of one.
9Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Market Dynamics from Administrative Records, December 2002, <http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/w_r_research/MarketDynamics1202.pdf> (February 19, 2003).
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