Nearly eight in 10 (16.3 million) public sector employees worked for an employer that sponsors a plan.

Nearly half of Americans worked for an employer or union that sponsored a pension or retirement plan in 2012, according to new research.

Employee Benefits Research Associates discloses this finding in a November 2013 “Issue Brief” published by the EBRI Education and Research Fund. The report examines the level of participation by workers in public and private-sector, employee-based pension or retirement plans, based on the U.S. Census’ Bureau’s March 2013 Current Population Survey, the most recent data available.

The report shows that among the 156.5 million Americans who worked in 2012, 76 million (48.6 percent) worked for employers or unions that sponsored a pension or retirement plan, and 61.6 million (39.4 percent) participated in a plan. Among private sector wage and salary workers, 53.3 million (48.5 percent of 110 million) worked for an employer sponsoring a plan and 43 million (39.1 percent) participated in the plan.

Rates are higher among public sector workers: 16.3 million (79.3 percent of 20.5 million) public sector employees worked for an employer that sponsors a plan. And 14.6 million (71.5 percent) participated in a plan.

When defining the workforce more narrowly to full-time, full-year wage and salary workers ages 21-64, the EBRI briefs find that 55.7 million (60.4 percent of 92.2 million) employees worked for employers sponsoring a plan. And 49.3 million (53.5 percent) participated in a retirement plan.

The report also notes differences in participation rates by demographic group.

“Being white or having attained a higher education level were also associated higher probabilities of participating in a retirement plan,” the report states. “Among white salary workers ages 21-64, 49.1 percent participated in a plan, compared with 27.3 percent of Hispanic workers.

Married workers were more likely to participate in a plan, while never-married workers had the lowest probability,” the report adds. “And the higher an individual’s earnings $10,000 and above, the more likely he or she participated in plan.”