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The Perception of Social Security Incentives for Labor Supply and Retirement: The Median Voter Knows More Than You'd Think

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 26

Author

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  • Jeffrey B. Liebman
  • Erzo F. P. Luttmer

Abstract

The degree to which the Social Security tax distorts labor supply depends on the extent to which individuals perceive the link between current earnings and future Social Security benefits. Some Social Security reform plans have been motivated by an assumption that workers fail to perceive this link and that increasing the salience of the link could result in significant efficiency gains. To measure the perceived linkage between labor supply and Social Security benefits, we administered a survey to a representative sample of Americans aged 50-70. We find that the majority of respondents believe that their Social Security benefits increase with labor supply. Indeed, respondents generally report a link between labor supply and future benefits that is somewhat greater than the actual incentive. We also surveyed people about their understanding of various other provisions in the Social Security benefit rules. We find that some of these provisions (e.g., effects of delayed benefit claiming and rules on widow benefits) are relatively well understood while others (e.g., rules on spousal benefits, provisions on which years of earnings are taken into account) are less well understood. In addition, our survey incorporated a framing experiment, which shows that how the incentives for delayed claiming are presented has an impact on hypothetical claiming decisions. In particular, the traditional "break-even" framing used by the Social Security Administration leads to earlier claiming than other presentations do.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2012. "The Perception of Social Security Incentives for Labor Supply and Retirement: The Median Voter Knows More Than You'd Think," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 26, pages 1-42 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12559
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Liebman, Jeffrey B. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P. & Seif, David G., 2009. "Labor supply responses to marginal Social Security benefits: Evidence from discontinuities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1208-1223, December.
    2. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2015. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence from a Field Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 275-299, February.
    3. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1996. "Privatization of Social Security: How It Works and Why It Matters," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10, pages 1-32 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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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:oup:jeurec:v:15:y:2017:i:2:p:429-462. is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ben Baumberg Geiger, 2016. "Benefit ‘myths’? The accuracy and inaccuracy of public beliefs about the benefits system," CASE Papers /199, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
    4. Jeffrey R. Brown & Arie Kapteyn & Erzo F.P. Luttmer & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "Cognitive Constraints on Valuing Annuities," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 429-462.
    5. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2015. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence from a Field Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 275-299, February.
    6. repec:oup:ecpoli:v:32:y:2017:i:92:p:757-809. is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Lorenzo Burlon & Montserrat Vilalta-Bufí, 2016. "A new look at technical progress and early retirement," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-39, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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