Research & Analysis by David Rogofsky
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.
Saving for retirement has traditionally been compared to a three-legged stool supported by Social Security benefits, workplace pensions, and household savings. As the prevalence of defined benefit pensions has diminished in recent decades, the importance of household savings has grown. To enable and encourage saving among lower-income Americans, policymakers have established several types of tax incentives. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides an immediate reduction in income tax liability (or a larger refund) for eligible households. Additionally, certain types of retirement saving accounts and defined contribution saving plans lower current tax liability by deferring taxation of the amounts contributed until the funds are withdrawn in retirement. Using data from the Understanding America Study, this article compares the retirement-related financial behavior and preparedness of EITC-eligible and ineligible households and examines whether EITC eligibility affects the use of tax-advantaged retirement saving plans.
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.