Spotlight: Olivia S. Mitchell

As one of America's leading researchers on finance, employee benefit plans and retirement economics, Olivia S. Mitchell was tapped by the National Institute on Aging, or NIA, to collaborate on one of the most comprehensive studies on aging ever undertaken.

At a glance
Name: Olivia S. Mitchell, Ph.D.
Hometown: Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Education: Master's (1976) and doctorate (1978) degrees in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bachelor's degree (1974) in economics from Harvard University.
Career highlights:
  • Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; executive director of the school's Pension Research Council; director of the school's Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research.
  • Co-investigator for the Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan.
  • Serves on the board of the University of Pennsylvania Population Aging Research Center.
  • Research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Served on President Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.
  • Served on the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, Advisory Council.
  • Co-author of numerous publications on retirement, pensions, public finance and risk management.
Long-ranging and extensive in scope, the study has surveyed more than 27,000 people age 50 and older since 1992 and has yielded a mother lode of information on the consequences of retirement and the relationship between health, income and wealth over time.

The result, The Health & Retirement Study, or HRS, is a cooperative effort managed by the NIA and the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. caught up with Mitchell as she was returning from an international conference for pension fund managers in Lima, Peru.

 The HRS study data indicates a larger proportion of baby boomers expect to be working after age 65. What factors are contributing to that expectation?

Boomers are beginning to understand that they are more likely to live for a long time in retirement, thus requiring more financing for retirement than in the past. Also, Social Security and Medicare are in a precarious state. So working longer offers a chance to save up more and sustain an income at an older age. And since there are fewer young people in the labor force, employers are actively seeking to keep older workers in many cases, so they won't lose the know-how and productivity.


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