Participation in employer-sponsored retirement plans among those between the ages of 21 and 64 slipped this year, but among those who do participate, women outnumber men, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

In fact, in a survey of those with defined contribution plans, the organization found that while participation among full-time, full-year employees within that age group fell 2% in the past year, 56.4% of those who do are women.

On the other hand, 53.2% of men within this age group participated. Still among all workers, 1% more men than women enroll in retirement programs, according to the survey.

EBRI Senior Research Associate Craig Copeland attributed the difference to lower wages for women, and a greater tendency to work part-time.

Using data from the United States Census Bureau, researchers also found that participation increases as the economy approaches full employment. For example, enrollment increased in 1999, but decreased in 2001 and 2002, as jobs got harder to find.

When the job market stabilized in 2003 and 2004, participation remained relatively constant. In 2005, participation dipped.

Furthermore, the organization found that older employees were more likely to participate in such programs. Whereas 56.5% of full-time employees between 55 and 64 participated, only 18.4% of those between 21 and 24 did so.

Only 28% of Hispanic wage and salary workers participated, compared to 52% of white employees and 43 % of African-Americans, according to EBRI. The organization cited language as the primary deterrent.

Minnesota had the highest participation rate: 56%; with 38% of employees participating in such plans, Florida had the lowest. In general, states in the Southwest, West and South had the lowest participation rates, compared to those in the Midwest and East.

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