NB21-05: How Do the Social Security Statement and Online Resources Affect Claiming and Work?
Effective communication about Social Security benefits is vital for informing workers about their entitlements, aiding in claiming decisions and retirement planning. SSA communicates with future and current beneficiaries with a range of tools, but the two largest in scope are the Social Security Statement and my Social Security online accounts. There has been substantial recent variation in both of these communications: starting in
Fiscal Year 2000, a personalized Social Security Statement was annually sent to every eligible individual age 25 or over. But in 2011, budget constraints led to a cessation of automatic mailings. In the six years that followed, there were three separate reintroductions and two additional cessations, leading to the current policy, where only
eligible individuals age 60 or over receive an automatic mailing every year. This variation in communications is further affected by SSA’s 2012 introduction of my Social Security online accounts, allowing users instant access to the same information as in the Statement as well as interactive planning tools. This project will use administrative SSA records to estimate how this recent variation in communications has affected claiming behavior and employment, thereby providing evidence on the effectiveness of these methods of communication
in informing workers’ decision of when to claim benefits. A small body of research has studied the Statement’s original introduction in the late 1990s and its impact on knowledge and behavior (Mastrobuoni 2011; Smith and Couch 2014b; Armour 2018). Recent research has leveraged the Statement’s 2014-2017 brief reintroduction, finding that the Statement affects planned claiming age (Armour forthcoming). However, there is a dearth of research on how the Statement’s reintroduction and access to my Social Security accounts have changed actual claiming ages and work behavior. This proposed project addresses this gap in our understanding of the impact of these Social Security communications by combining administrative records on earnings and claiming with administrative information
on my Social Security account holding and usage. We will exploit the variation in Statement schedules and in my Social Security introduction and utilization to estimate how the distributions of claiming age and retirement timing are affected by communications from Social Security, and whether these recent changes in Social Security communications affected claiming differentially by incentives to delay claimin.g
This project is supported by Social Security Administration under grant number 5 RDR18000003-03-00.
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- Author: Shane Greenstein