Assessing Social Security Program Knowledge Using Longitudinal DataAugust 2022
Working-age adults have relatively high levels of knowledge about basic aspects of the Social Security program, but are considerably less knowledgeable about other significant program features
More than 80 percent of respondents knew about the availability of Social Security disability benefits, the adjustment of benefit amounts by claiming age, and the option to wait until after retirement to claim benefits. However, only 27 percent correctly understood how Social Security benefits are calculated, and few understood that benefits adjust with inflation and are provided to spouses in certain circumstances.
Program knowledge levels vary by education and financial literacy in all age groups
Individuals with higher educational attainment or higher levels of financial literacy show higher program knowledge levels.
Younger adults aged 25–45 have the lowest levels of knowledge in both survey rounds but show the largest increase in knowledge between the two rounds
Thus, informational outreach might benefit younger adults, especially those with lower levels of education and financial literacy.
- The Understanding America Study (UAS) is a nationally representative survey of U.S. respondents aged 18 or older that covers Social Security programs, retirement planning, financial management, and cognitive measures.
- We use the first two rounds of the UAS' Social Security Program Knowledge module to measure program knowledge among adults aged 25–64 at different time points and examine differences by age, education level, and financial literacy.
- Future survey rounds will help us assess how program knowledge varies over time and across other demographic characteristics, such as race and ethnicity.
|Age group and round||Overall||Educational attainment||Financial literacy level|
|High school or less||Some college or more||Low||High|
|SOURCE: Authors' calculations using UAS 16 and UAS 94 results.|
|NOTE: * = statistically significant at the 0.05 level.|
SOURCE: Alattar, Laith, Matt Messel, David Rogofsky, and Mark A. Sarney. 2019. “The Use of Longitudinal Data on Social Security Program Knowledge.” Social Security Bulletin 79(4): 1–9.
NOTES: All content is simplified for presentation. Please see source material for full details and caveats.
The findings and conclusions presented in this summary are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the agency.