The recipients of the 2017 Witt Award are Jeffrey R. Brown from the University of Illinois, Arie Kapteyn from the University of Southern California, and Olivia S. Mitchell from the University of Pennsylvania for “Framing and Claiming: How Information-Framing Affects Expected Social Security Claiming Behavior”, March 2016, Volume 83, Issue 1, pages 139-162.
This article provides evidence that Social Security benefit claiming decisions are strongly affected by framing and are thus inconsistent with expected utility theory. Using a randomized experiment that controls for both observable and unobservable differences across individuals, we find that the use of a “breakeven analysis” encourages early claiming. Respondents are more likely to delay when later claiming is framed as a gain, and the claiming age is anchored at older ages. Additionally, the financially less literate, individuals with credit card debt, and those with lower earnings are more influenced by framing than others.