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Three Little Words? The Impact of Social Security Terminology on Retirement
Last registered on June 25, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Three Little Words? The Impact of Social Security Terminology on Retirement
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003106
Initial registration date
June 22, 2018
Last updated
June 25, 2018 1:06 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
USC
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2016-11-22
End date
2017-03-26
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We study the impact of changing the existing terminology used to describe features of the rules governing Social Security retirement benefits on retirement claiming decisions and knowledge. We provide respondents from a nationally-representative online panel with information pertinent to the decision of when to claim Social Security retirement benefits; the content is identical for all respondents, but some are randomly given an alternative set of terms to refer to the key claiming ages (the experimental treatment group) while others are given the current terms (the control group). We then elicit claiming intentions and knowledge.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Perez-Arce, Francisco. 2018. "Three Little Words? The Impact of Social Security Terminology on Retirement." AEA RCT Registry. June 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3106-1.0.
Former Citation
Perez-Arce, Francisco. 2018. "Three Little Words? The Impact of Social Security Terminology on Retirement." AEA RCT Registry. June 25. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3106/history/31164.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
All participants will receive the same information content through information screens. Those in the treatment group will see screens using the alternative terms, and those in the control using the current terminology. An example follows:

Screen 1.
What's the best time to start your Social Security retirement benefits? Here's some information to consider when planning when to claim your benefits.
You can start your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Your monthly benefit amount will be consdiderably different depending on when you start receiving it.
62 is your [Minimum-Benefit Age (C1a,C1b,D1)/ Early Eligibility Age(A1a,A1b,B1)] because [if you claim at that age, your monthly payments will be the lowest to which you are entitled (C1a,C1b,D1) / it is the earliest age at which you can claim benefits (A1a,A1b,B1)]. [Blank (C1a,C1b,D1), If you start claiming at the age of 62, your benefits will be the lowest to which you are entitled (A1a,A1b,B1)].
Your monthly benefits will be permanently reduced if you start them any time between age 62 and age [66/67], [Blank (B1,D1) /your Full Retirement Age (A1a,A1b) / your Standard Benefit Age(C1a,C1b). [This is the Reduced-Benefit Period(A1a, C1a)]. During this period, your monthly benefit increases about 6.5% per year you delay claiming.
Before you reach [your Full Retirement Age (A1a,A1b)/ Standard Benefit Age (C1a,C1b)/66/67(B1,D1)], some of your benefits may be withheld if you work and have earnings above a certain amount. However, after you reach [Full Retirement Age(A1a,A1b)/Standard Benefit Age (C1a/C1b)/66-67(B1,D1)], SSA will recalculate your benefit amount to compensate you for any months in which part of your benefits were withheld. If you continue working but wait to start benefits until [Full Retirement Age(A1a,A1b/Standard Benefit Age(C.1.a/C.1.b)/66/67(B1,D1)], your benefits will not be reduced no matter how much you earn.
If you decide to delay benefits until after [Full Retirement Age (A1a,A1b)/Standard Benefit Age(C1a,C1b)/66/67(B1,D1], your benefit will increase [as you earn Delayed Retirement Credits(A1a,A1b,B1) /BLANK(C1a,C1b,D1]. The increase during this [Increased Benefit Period (A1a,C1a)/ period (A1b,B1,C1b,D1)] is an average of 8% per year.
There is no additional benefit increase after you reach [age 70(A1a,A1b,B1/age 70, your Maximum-Benefit Age (C1a,C1b,D1)], even if you continue to delay taking benefits.
Intervention Start Date
2016-11-22
Intervention End Date
2017-03-26
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Claiming Intentions
Retirement Intentions
Social Security Knowledge Test Scores
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
In Section II of the survey participants are randomized into their respective treatments, as follows:
1. Claiming Terms - Participants will be randomized first with equal probability to one of two “claiming term” treatments – current or alternative terms - and then further randomized to having an explanation of Social Security retirement benefits that includes or excludes the FRA (or its alternative term).
2. Information - Participants will be orthogonally randomized with equal probability to one of two different “information” treatments – either receiving a detailed explanation about benefit growth (similar to existing information obtained from using retirement planning tools) or a short explanation (similar to information obtained from the Social Security Statement alone).
Randomization with equal probability:
Detailed Information
Brief Information
Treatment A: Current Terms
A.1
A.2
Treatment B: Current Terms – FRA
B.1
B.2
Treatment C: Alternative Terms
C.1
C.2
Treatment D: Alternative Terms – FRA
D.1
D.2
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done within the software used by the Understanding America Study.
Randomization Unit
Respondent
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
3,405
Sample size: planned number of observations
3,405
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1,702
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
University Park Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers