The Impacts of the Social Security Statement Redesign on People’s Knowledge and Behavioral Intentions: A Survey Experiment

Published: 2022


Social Security information can be complex but is crucial for financial planning. The Social Security Statement, which was recently redesigned, aims to better inform the public. We assess the impact of the Statement’s redesign on people’s understanding of Social Security, their interest in acquiring further information, and their intended behavior, including their intended age for claiming retirement benefits. We do this through a randomized control trial of an information treatment that uses the revised and old versions of the Statement for the treatment and control groups, respectively. Finally, we show respondents an information screen and links that encourage them to check the revised Statement through their my Social Security account, and test whether those exposed to the revised Statement are more likely to click on them. We find that the redesigned Statement is more successful in improving understanding of critical issues around benefits. We also find evidence of higher clarity and interest in acquiring more information among those assigned to the redesigned Statement treatment, though we find no effects on clicks to my Social Security links. The redesign also affects the ages respondents intend to claim, but these effects dissipated by the time of the follow-up survey.

Key Findings

    • The Social Security Statement was recently redesigned to better inform the public. One particularly noteworthy change is that the redesigned Statement provides retirement benefit estimates for all ages from 62 (the early eligibility age) to 70 (when delayed retirement credits stop accruing), while the previous version included benefit estimates only for full retirement age (FRA), age 62, and age 70. Furthermore, the Statement now presents this information via a simple graph alongside a short explanatory textbox. Other changes include how information is presented. The redesign makes some crucial pieces of information more notable and clearer.
    • Through a couple of randomized experiments, we found that the redesign of the Statement has several impacts. Participants randomly assigned to the redesigned statement scored higher on knowledge scores and provided significantly different responses when asked when they planned to claim their retirement benefits. We also found some positive effects on respondents’ evaluation of the clarity and interest of the information, as well as on their self-reported interesting in learning more.
    • The redesigned Statement increased the number of correct answers in a test designed to measure Social Security knowledge. There were significant effects on the specific questions testing respondents’ knowledge on how benefits are calculated, how retirement benefits are affected by claiming age, whether benefits are adjusted for inflation, and the relationship between claiming and retirement (that is, on whether people must claim at the moment they retire from work), and a vignette-based question to measure understanding of the relationship between claiming age and monthly benefits.
    • An important change of the redesigned Statement is the way it shows expected benefits and how they would change depending on claiming age. While the old statement showed benefits at three focal ages (full retirement, 62 and 70, in that order) in a table, the redesigned Statement shows graphically how they would change per each year of delayed claiming. We find that this results in a more even distribution of intended claiming ages with lower spikes at the full retirement age and age 70. On average, however, those in the redesigned Statement group chose an earlier claiming age.


Perez-Arce, Francisco, and Lila Rabinovich. 2022. “The Impacts of the Social Security Statement Redesign on People’s Knowledge and Behavioral Intentions: A Survey Experiment.” Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2022-450.