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Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence From a Field Experiment

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

This paper presents the results of a field experiment in which a sample of older workers was randomized between a treatment group that was given information about key Social Security provisions and a control group that was not. The experiment was designed to examine whether it is possible to affect individual behavior using a relatively inexpensive informational intervention about the provisions of a public program and to explore the mechanisms underlying the behavior change. We find that our relatively mild intervention (sending an informational brochure and an invitation to a web-tutorial) increased labor force participation one year later by 4 percentage points relative to the control group mean of 74 percent and that this effect is driven by a 7.2 percentage point increase among female subjects. In addition to affecting actual labor supply behavior, the information intervention increased survey measures of the perceived returns to working longer, especially among female respondents.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17287.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17287.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Publication status: published as 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 275-99, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17287
Note: AG LS PE
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  1. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S Mitchelli, 2007. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 42(1), pages 35-44, January.
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  3. 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," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1 - 42.
  4. Daron Acemoglu & Amy Finkelstein, 2008. "Input and Technology Choices in Regulated Industries: Evidence from the Health Care Sector," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(5), pages 837-880, October.
  5. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2009. "The Role of Information for Retirement Behavior: Evidence Based on the Stepwise Introduction of the Social Security Statement," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-23, Center for Retirement Research, revised Oct 2009.
  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. Jeffrey R. Kling & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Lee C. Vermeulen & Marian V. Wrobel, 2012. "Comparison Friction: Experimental Evidence from Medicare Drug Plans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 199-235.
  8. John Beshears & James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2007. "How Are Preferences Revealed?," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001760, UCLA Department of Economics.
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  11. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
  12. Heckman, James J. & Moon, Seong Hyeok & Pinto, Rodrigo & Savelyev, Peter & Yavitz, Adam, 2010. "Analyzing Social Experiments as Implemented: A Reexamination of the Evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," IZA Discussion Papers 5095, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104.
  14. Goda, Gopi Shah & Manchester, Colleen Flaherty & Sojourner, Aaron, 2012. "What Will My Account Really Be Worth? An Experiment on Exponential Growth Bias and Retirement Saving," Working Papers 873-2, RAND Corporation.
  15. Eckstein, Zvi & Lifshitz, Osnat, 2009. "Dynamic Female Labor Supply," IZA Discussion Papers 4550, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Anderson, Michael L., 2008. "Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103(484), pages 1481-1495.
  17. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, January.
  18. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "Eliciting Subjective Expectations in Internet Surveys," Working Papers 589, RAND Corporation.
  19. Justine S. Hastings & Lydia Tejeda-Ashton, 2008. "Financial Literacy, Information, and Demand Elasticity: Survey and Experimental Evidence from Mexico," NBER Working Papers 14538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  21. Hugo Benítez-Silva & Berna Demiralp & Zhen Liu, 2009. "Social Security Literacy and Retirement Well-Being," Working Papers wp210, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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