Research & Analysis by Matt Messel

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Differences in Use and Perceptions of Retirement Planning Information Sources by Race and Ethnicity: Findings From the Understanding America Study
Research and Statistics Note No. 2023-01 (released September 2023)
by Richard E. Chard, Matt Messel, and David Rogofsky

The authors use survey data for 2014–2021 from the Understanding America Study to explore use of and attitudes toward different retirement planning information sources by respondent race and ethnicity. They report on respondents' perceptions of the accessibility, understandability, accuracy, and usefulness of retirement planning information available from social networks, employers, financial planners, the Social Security Administration, and other sources. This research may help in guiding effective targeted outreach to racial and ethnic groups, and in identifying potential barriers to access to underused sources.

Public Knowledge About the Social Security Retirement Program: Differences by Race and Ethnicity
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 83, No. 3 (released August 2023)
by Richard E. Chard, Matt Messel, and David Rogofsky

Using data from the first three waves of the Understanding America Study, the authors examine how public knowledge of the Social Security retirement program helps individuals make optimal decisions about saving and the timing of benefit claiming. They use descriptive statistics to highlight differences in program knowledge by respondents' race and ethnicity as well as by age, education level, and sex. They also discuss the implications of their findings and suggest directions for future research.

Public Knowledge About the Social Security Administration's Disability Programs: Findings from the Understanding America Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 4 (released November 2022)
by Matt Messel, Tokunbo B. Oluwole, and David Rogofsky

Using 2021 survey results from the nationally representative panel of Understanding America Study respondents, the authors of this article explore public knowledge of various aspects of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. They present descriptive statistics that highlight different levels of program knowledge from one program aspect to another as well as across respondent characteristics such as age, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, income, and presence of a long-term disabling condition. Program aspects covered in the survey questions include financial and medical eligibility for program benefits, application and disability determination procedures, and typical processing times and benefit amounts.

Characteristics of Noninstitutionalized DI, SSI, and OASI Program Participants, 2016 Update
Research and Statistics Note No. 2022-01 (released April 2022)
by Matt Messel and Brad Trenkamp

The authors use data from the March 2017 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey matched to Social Security administrative records to produce tables providing detailed information on the economic and demographic characteristics of Disability Insurance beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients in calendar year 2016. The tables update those published in a 2015 Research and Statistics Note that used 2013 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a 2014 Research and Statistics Note that used 2010 SIPP data, and a 2008 Research and Statistics Note that used 2002 SIPP data. For this note, the authors add tables showing selected characteristics of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance beneficiaries.

The Use of Longitudinal Data on Social Security Program Knowledge
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 4 (released November 2019)
by Laith Alattar, Matt Messel, David Rogofsky, and Mark A. Sarney

This article presents and compares results from the first two waves of Understanding America Study (UAS) surveys of public knowledge about Social Security programs. The article briefly reviews the Social Security Administration's past efforts to gauge public knowledge of the programs, describes the UAS survey instrument used in the current effort, and presents survey results with detail by respondent age, education, and financial literacy level. Among the authors' findings are that younger workers with lower levels of education and financial literacy are logical targets for agency informational outreach and interventions.

The Time Between Disability Onset and Application for Benefits: How Variation Among Disabled Workers May Inform Early Intervention Policies
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 3 (released August 2019)
by Matt Messel and Alexander Strand

This article examines how much time typically passes between disability onset and application for disability-program benefits, by age at onset and diagnosis. Among eventual applicants, certain subgroups might be suitable targets for employment-support interventions. Using Social Security administrative data, the authors find that the median period from onset to application is 7.6 months. Younger applicants tend to have waited longer, particularly those diagnosed with back impairments or arthritis. Among both younger and older applicants, individuals diagnosed with intellectual disability or other mental disorders are potential targets for early intervention programs because those groups wait the longest to apply and are the most likely to continue working in the interim.

An Introduction to the Understanding America Study Internet Panel
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 78, No. 2 (released May 2018)
by Laith Alattar, Matt Messel, and David Rogofsky

This article provides an overview of the Understanding America Study (UAS), a nationally representative Internet panel of approximately 6,000 adult respondents that is administered by the University of Southern California. The UAS, which began in 2014, represents one of the richest sources of panel data available in the United States. It includes over 50 survey modules on topics such as retirement planning, economic well-being, and psychological constructs. This article reviews the UAS methodology; describes how external researchers may commission UAS surveys, incorporate their own survey questions and methodological experiments, and conduct randomized controlled trials; highlights selected publicly available data from UAS surveys on cognition, personality, financial literacy and behaviors, political views, and other topics; and discusses opportunities for external parties to work with UAS administrators in developing new surveys and future lines of research.