Study authors Matthew S. Rutledge, Norma B. Coe and Kendrew Wong of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found those age 62 filed for benefits about six months earlier during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, than during the less severe recession 2001 to 2003 -- and about 10 months earlier than if there had been no recession.
"As a result of the change in timing, monthly benefits were $56 per month less, or 4.6 percent less than in the Minor Recession scenario," the researchers said in a statement. "High unemployment during the Great Recession is projected to have increased the probability of claiming Social Security benefits early, relative to a less severe recession, by 5.6 percentage points."
This increase was nearly uniform across socioeconomic groups -- suggesting many older individuals, not just those in vulnerable groups or with lower life expectancy, use Social Security as income insurance during economic downturns, Rutledge said.
The simulations indicated, compared to a less severe recession, individuals moved up their time to collect Social Security by about six months, which reduced their monthly benefits by about 5 percent.
Those retiring -- early -- at age 62 and eight months, had an expected benefit of $1,141 a month.
When there was no recession, the average retirement age was 63 years, 6 months, and the expected Social Security check was $1,235.