Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 80, No. 4

(released November 2020)
by Barbara A. Smith

To inform workers about potential future Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration employs an informational intervention: mailing Social Security Statements. In this article, the author uses linear probability models and agency administrative data to analyze a behavioral effect of Statement receipt; specifically, its effect on the age at which workers claim their retirement benefits. Results for individuals who received one Statement mailing by age 62 are compared with those for individuals who received multiple mailings, and with those who received none, during the 1975–2007 study period. Workers who received multiple Statements were found to be significantly more likely to claim retirement benefits at later ages than were other workers, and Statement receipt was positively associated with employment at ages 62–70. The author also compares the relative effects of an educational outreach (in the form of Statement mailings) and a direct policy change (involving the full retirement age) on claiming behavior and finds that the magnitudes of the two effects are similar.

by Philip Armour

This article examines how the reintroduction of Social Security Statement mailings from September 2014 through December 2016 affected recipients' expectations about Social Security benefits and their benefit claiming decisions. During the reintroduction period, Statements were mailed to workers of selected ages, enabling a comparison of results for 2016 recipients, 2014/2015 recipients, and reintroduction-period nonrecipients. The author fielded a specialized American Life Panel survey module to elicit recall of and reactions to receiving the Statement and used earlier survey modules to control for respondents' prior Social Security knowledge. He finds that recipients recalled and valued the information provided in the Statement, but that the effects rapidly diminished as time passed after receipt. Recipients were likelier than nonrecipients to change their planned claiming age and to expect Congress to enact future benefit cuts.