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The Role of Information for Retirement Behavior: Evidence based on the Stepwise Introduction of the Social Security Statement

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  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni

Abstract

In 1995, the Social Security Administration started sending out the annual Social Security Statement. It contains information about the worker's estimated benefits at the ages 62, 65, and 70. I use this unique natural experiment to analyze the retirement and claiming decision making. First, I find that, despite the previous availability of information, the Statement has a significant impact on workers' knowledge about their benefits. These findings are consistent with a model where workers need to gather costly information in order to improve their retirement decision. Second, I use this exogenous variation in knowledge to analyze the optimality of workers' decisions. Several findings suggest that workers do not change their retirement behavior: i) Workers do not change their expected age of retirement after receiving the Statement; ii) monthly claiming patterns do not show any change after the introduction of the Social Security Statement; iii) workers do not become more sensitive to Social Security incentives after receiving the Statement. More research is needed to establish whether workers are already behaving optimally or they are not, but the information contained in the Statement is not sufficient to improve their retirement behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 139.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision: 2010
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:139

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Keywords: social security statements; retirement expectations; retirement behavior; social security incentives;

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References

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  1. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2006. "The Social Security Earnings Test Removal: Money Saved or Money Spent by the Trust Fund?," Working Papers 69, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  2. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-77, September.
  3. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Imperfect Knowledge, Retirement and Saving," NBER Working Papers 8406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Andrew A. Samwick, 1998. "New Evidence on Pensions, Social Security, and the Timing of Retirement," NBER Working Papers 6534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2006. "Baby Boomer Retirement Security: the Roles of Planning, Financial Literacy, and Housing Wealth," NBER Working Papers 12585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Liebman, Jeffrey B. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P. & Seif, David G., 2009. "Labor Supply Responses to Marginal Social Security Benefits: Evidence from Discontinuities," Scholarly Articles 4481678, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  7. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2006. "Labor Supply Effects of the Recent Social Security Benefit Cuts: Empirical Estimates Using Cohort Discontinuities," Working Papers 66, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  8. Ann Huff Stevens & Sewin Chan, 2005. "What You Don’t Know Can’t Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision Making," Working Papers 518, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  9. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," CeRP Working Papers 46, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  10. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Social Security Benefits: An Empirical Study of Expectations and Realizations," NBER Working Papers 2257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2001. "Social Security Incentives for Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 311-354 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Public Economics 9406005, EconWPA, revised 06 Jul 1994.
  13. Robin L. Lumsdaine & James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1996. "Why Are Retirement Rates So High at Age 65?," NBER Chapters, in: Advances in the Economics of Aging, pages 61-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Alan B. Krueger & Bruce D. Meyer, 2002. "Labor Supply Effects of Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 9014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Andrew A. Samwick, 1997. "Discount Rate Heterogeneity and Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 6219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions, The Option Value of Work, and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 2686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Bernheim, B Douglas & Levin, Lawrence, 1989. "Social Security and Personal Saving: An Analysis of Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 97-102, May.
  18. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2007. "Future Social Security Entitlements and the Retirement Decision," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 234-246, May.
  19. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1981. "Reconsidering the Work Disincentive Effects of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 0562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Luc Behaghel & David M. Blau, 2012. "Framing Social Security Reform: Behavioral Responses to Changes in the Full Retirement Age," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 41-67, November.
  2. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00564950 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2011. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence From a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 17287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fabian Duarte & Justine S. Hastings, 2012. "Fettered Consumers and Sophisticated Firms: Evidence from Mexico's Privatized Social Security Market," NBER Working Papers 18582, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Tibor Hanappi, 2012. "Retirement Behaviour in Austria: Incentive Effects on Old-Age Labor Supply," NRN working papers 2012-13, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  6. Iñigo Iturbe-Ormaetxe Kortajarene, 2011. "Visibility of social security contributions and employment," Working Papers. Serie AD 2011-16, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).

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