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The Effects of Changes in Social Security’s Delayed Retirement Credit: Evidence from Administrative Data

SIEPR
Jun 2021
Working Paper
21-035
By  Mark Duggan, Irena Dushi, Sookyo Jeong, Gina Li

The delayed retirement credit (DRC) increases monthly OASI (Old Age and Survivors Insurance) benefits for primary beneficiaries who claim after their full retirement age (FRA). For many years, the DRC was set at 3.0 percent per year (0.25 percent monthly). The 1983 amendments to Social Security more than doubled this actuarial adjustment to 8.0 percent per year. These changes were phased in gradually, so that those born in 1924 or earlier retained a 3.0 percent DRC while those born in 1943 or later had an 8.0 percent DRC. In this paper, we use administrative data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to estimate the effect of this policy change on individual claiming behavior. We focus on the first half of the DRC increase (from 3.0 to 5.5 percent) given changes in other SSA policies that coincided with the later increases. Our findings demonstrate that the increase in the DRC led to a significant increase in delayed claiming of social security benefits and strongly suggest that the effects were larger for those with higher lifetime incomes, who would have a greater financial incentive to delay given their longer life expectancies.

Publication Keywords: 
Social Security
claiming behavior
retirement