The Reintroduction of the Social Security Statement and its Effect on Social Security Expectations, Retirement Savings, and Labor Supply across the Age Distribution

Published: 2017


This paper examines how the 2014 reintroduction of the Social Security statement, staggered by every fifth birth year, affected American Life Panel respondents’ Social Security expectations, savings behavior, and labor supply. The rich panel design of the ALP allows for controls for prior Social Security knowledge and behavior, and a specialized module fielded to ALP respondents elicited recall of the Statement and use of alternate information. The majority of individuals who were sent a Statement recall receiving one, with high rates of nonrecall concentrated among younger respondents. Statement recipients and my Social Security account holders highly value the information therein for retirement planning. Recipients measurably increased their likelihood of expecting future benefits, especially disability benefits, and were less pessimistic about future cuts to the program. Recipients were more likely to work after receipt, especially younger workers, although those already working more than 40 hours per week decreased their hours worked on the intensive margin. There were no statistically significant effects on retirement savings, although additional research is required for estimating heterogeneous effects.

Key Findings

    • Individuals highly value information about their benefits from SSA.  Individuals report the statement and my Social Security accounts (an online account on the Social Security website allowing individuals to check their potential benefits) useful for planning for retirement and deciding when to claim Social Security benefits, especially in years leading up to retirement.
    • After being sent a statement, individuals are more likely to report expecting to receive future benefits, especially disability benefits. They are also less pessimistic about the possibility of future cuts to the social insurance programs, specifically about a 10 percent drop in their reported expectations that Congress will make the Social Security system less generous in the next 10 years.
    • Among those already expecting benefits, there does not appear to be much change in expectations for either claiming age or the benefit amount upon claiming. There are no measurable changes in retirement savings through IRAs, pensions, or other long-term savings vehicles, although these estimates are preliminary and future analyses by subpopulations may allow for more precise measurements.
    • Those who have a my Social Security account tend to be better informed about program details, even before signing up for their account.
    • Among those sent statements, many either did not receive them or forgot having received them. These individuals are much more likely to be younger than 30.
    • The effect of being sent a statement recently had a varied impact on work behavior. For those previously working more than 40 hours per week, the statement reduced hours worked. Being recently sent a statement was also associated with re-entry into the labor force among those previously not working.


Philip Armour


Armour, Philip. 2017. “The Reintroduction of the Social Security Statement and its Effect on Social Security Expectations, Retirement Savings, and Labor Supply across the Age Distribution.” Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Retirement Research Center (MRRC) Working Paper, WP 2017-373.