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

  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni

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. Either, workers are already behaving optimally, or the information contained in the Statement is not sufficient to improve their retirement behavior.

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File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/the-role-of-information-for-retirement-behavior-evidence-based-on-the-stepwise-introduction-of-the-social-security-statement/
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Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College with number wp2009-23.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision: Oct 2009
Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2009-23
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  1. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2006. "Labor Supply Effects of the Recent Social Security Benefit Cuts: Empirical Estimates Using Cohort Discontinuities," CeRP Working Papers 53, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  2. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2006. "Baby boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and Housing wealth," CFS Working Paper Series 2006/20, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  4. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1997. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 781-832, July.
  5. 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).
  6. Stock, James H & Wise, David A, 1990. "Pensions, the Option Value of Work, and Retirement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1151-80, September.
  7. 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.
  8. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Social Security Benefits: An Empirical Study of Expectations and Realizations," NBER Working Papers 2257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Krueger, Alan B. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2002. "Labor supply effects of social insurance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 33, pages 2327-2392 Elsevier.
  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 L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Imperfect Knowledge, Retirement and Saving," Working Papers wp012, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  15. 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..
  16. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 2002. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 88-97, January.
  17. 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.
  18. Andrew A. Samwick, 1997. "Discount Rate Heterogeneity and Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 6219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1980. "Reconsidering the Work Disincentive Effects of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 0562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. 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.
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