Posted on 14 June 2012
By Mark Miller
Kathryn Anne Edwards doesn’t look at Social Security like most 26-year-olds.
Her cohort takes a dim view of the program’s prospects, according to a slew of surveys. Some 76 percent of young Americans don’t think Social Security will be able to pay them a benefit when they retire (Gallup); 86 percent would like to divert the taxes they pay to Social Security into private accounts (Pew Research Center); 48 percent of Americans under 40 think the system is in crisis and about to go bankrupt (Lake Research Partners).
But Edwards isn’t buying any of that. “I’m convinced if young people knew the facts, they wouldn’t have any reason to be against Social Security. It’s effective, efficient, sustaining and important.”
What makes Edwards different is that she knows more about how Social Security works than most people her age – or any age, for that matter. She’s a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of Wisconsin, and co-authored a guide to Social Security for young people () while working at the Economic Policy Institute, the liberal Washington think tank.
Edwards and other young Americans do have this much in common: surveys show they’re all very interested in having a guaranteed source of income in retirement.
But opinion poll data points to a disconnect on how young people understand the role Social Security plays in providing a base of secure retirement income. And the confusion isn’t accidental. Young people are facing a barrage of negative messages from opponents of Social Security who hope to cut benefits or privatize the system.