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Volume 10 Issue 4 - October 2009

2009 RRC Conference

The Retirement Research Consortium (RRC) held its 11th annual conference August 10-11, 2009, focusing on "Issues for Retirement Security" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

In his opening remarks, Manuel de la Puente, Associate Commissioner of the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, Social Security Administration (SSA), observed that the diverse group of attendees was "an indication of the wide-range appeal and of the practical value of the consistently high quality research produced by the Retirement Research Consortium in the past 10 years."

The annual RRC conference was intended to inform policy makers of the research findings and "give the researchers themselves a chance to hear from each other and to cross-fertilize ideas," according to Debra Whitman (Staff Director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging). Whitman helped establish the RRC when she was a project officer at SSA, along with Steve Sandell and others.

The Social Security Administration has "recognized the value of basic and applied research as necessary activities for enhancing the Social Security program," noted Manuel de la Puente. At the same time, SSA has also played a vital role "as a data source and resource tool for a wide variety of independent research done in other government agencies and in the private sector."

De la Puente noted that SSA funds between 60 and 75 retirement research projects through the three RRC centers each year: the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center, and the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Retirement Research Center.

Sylvester Schieber (Chair of the Social Security Advisory Board), gave the lunchtime address on the first day of the conference. His paper, "Productivity Rewards and Pay Illusions Caused by Health and Retirement Benefit Cost Increases," focused on the importance of reining in health benefit cost inflation as part of health care reform. Schieber warned, "If we fail to ... bring health inflation under control as part of health reform, then many workers may be burdened with higher costs that put an end to pay raises for the foreseeable future."

View Schieber’s paper at http://www.nber.org/2009rrc/Full/Luncheon%20Speech-Schieber%20.pdf.

Lawrence H. Summers (Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council) was the guest speaker on the second day. Summers underscored the importance of research done by the RRC. Asked when Social Security reform would be addressed, Summers cautiously replied that he was confident that it was in fact on President Obama’s agenda.

See the video and transcript of Summers’ speech at http://www.ssa.gov/policy/rrc/index.html.

View all RRC conference papers at http://www.nber.org/2009rrc/.