Connect * Empower * Impact

2019 AFCPE® Research and Training Symposium

AFCPE Pre-Symposium: Sunday, November 17 - Tuesday, November 19
AFCPE Symposium: Tuesday, November 19 - Thursday, November 21
Schedule Subject to Change

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018
Category: Diversity
Planning for Retirement: Differences in Social Security Knowledge across Hispanic Subgroups
Research has shown that Hispanics are less knowledgeable than the general U.S. population about Social Security. Yet, Hispanics are more likely to be reliant on Social Security benefits in retirement. They have lower median earnings, lower amounts saved for retirement, and higher life expectancy at age 65 than other population groups. We argue that it is crucial for effective outreach about Social Security to be developed and delivered to this population group. The purpose of this paper is to incorporate the diversity of the U.S. Hispanic population into an examination of Hispanics' Social Security knowledge in order to better inform outreach efforts. Earlier research with Hispanic focus groups (that comprised 80 participants) suggested differences in Social Security knowledge across Hispanic subgroups - Hispanics of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban ancestry as well as Hispanics who are primarily English-speaking vs. primarily Spanish-speaking. This research found that English-speaking participants were more knowledgeable than Spanish-speaking participants on most aspects of Social Security, and that across language and ancestry groups general program knowledge was stronger than specific benefits knowledge. In this paper, we extend the earlier qualitative analysis using data from the Understanding America Study (UAS), a nationally representative Internet panel of 5400 individuals managed by the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California. A sample of 410 Hispanics was available at the time the analysis for this paper was conducted; a larger sample size is expected to be available in the future allowing for further research. The participants of the Internet panel were asked the same Social Security knowledge questions as the focus group participants, allowing for a comparison of the percent of correct answers for both groups. Consistent with the findings of the earlier focus group research, we find stronger knowledge of Social Security among primarily English-speaking than primarily Spanish-speaking participants, and across language and ancestry groups we find stronger knowledge of general program attributes than specific benefits characteristics and requirements. Our findings suggest that providing more information about Social Security benefits and tailoring information by ancestry or language spoken might be more effective in reaching out to the Hispanic community than a more general one-size-fits-all approach. These findings should be of interest to researchers, practitioners and policymakers interested in improving the retirement security outcomes for Hispanics in the United States.
Implications for Practitioners
Social Security benefits are a particularly important component of retirement income for many Hispanics, making a strong understanding of the Social Security program and its benefits critical for informed retirement planning. The findings of our research suggest that outreach efforts that take into account the diversity among U.S. Hispanics (in terms of ancestry and language) may be more effective that one-size-fits-all approaches. Further, an emphasis on the specifics of Social Security benefits (such as the significance of claiming age) may be particularly helpful in informing retirement decision-making for adequate retirement incomes.