Public defined contribution plans' average participation rate rose to 34% last year from 22% in 2010, according to a survey by the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators.
The increase was attributed to an improved economy and expanded education efforts by NAGDCA members, Julia Durand, association president, said in an interview. Ms. Durand is director of defined contribution plans for the California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, whose $152.2 billion in total assets include $258 million in two DC plans.
About 1.9 million of an eligible 5.6 million public employees made deferrals last year, according to the survey of 84 respondents posted on the association's website.
In 2010, NAGDCA said about 1.9 million of 8.5 million eligible employees made deferrals.
The average annual deferral for participants was $4,334 last year and the average participant balance was $43,000, according to the survey. In 2010, the average annual deferral was $3,884 and the average account balance was $41,243.
Ms. Durand attributed the higher deferrals in 2011 to a better economy.
In the 2011 survey, 55 of the 84 respondents were executives at 457 plans, the remainder were executives at 401(k), 403(b) and 401(a) plans. The 2010 survey had 111 total respondents.
The e-mail survey was conducted in February and March.