How Does Media Coverage of Social Security Affect Worker Behavior?

IB#21-17

The brief’s key findings are:

  • Social Security’s trust fund is projected to deplete its reserves in 2034, after which ongoing revenues will cover only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits.
  • News coverage tends to emphasize the depletion date over the ongoing tax revenues, often with alarming headlines.
  • To gauge how such coverage could affect worker behavior, this study used an online experiment that showed different headlines to different groups.
  • Participants responded to headlines on trust fund depletion by reducing their intended claiming age, with no change in their intended savings rate.
  • If workers follow through with such intentions, claiming early would lock in lower monthly benefits without increased saving to make up the gap.

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