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Main photo Promoting research on retirement and Social Security policy

Volume 16, Issue 3 - October 2016

Director's corner

The 18th Annual Meeting of the Retirement Research Consortium, August 4-5, 2016, at the National Press Club, featured 21 talks, each covering an individual research project and followed by a discussant. The style of the research is academic, though the presentations strive for accessibility. Many of the discussants are Washington-based and can offer a policymaker’s perspective. There were two lunchtime speakers: Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, and Axel Borsch-Supan, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Munich. The three Retirement Research Centers – the Michigan Retirement Research Center, the Boston College Center, and the National Bureau of Economic Research Center – rotate in handling the organization of the meeting in cooperation with SSA, and this year was the MRRC’s turn.

The meeting drew more than 400 attendees and, as last year, was carried live on the Internet.

John Phillips, Associate Commissioner, Social Security Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, gave the introductory remarks. John has recently returned to SSA after serving as Chief of the Population and Social Process Branch of NIA, Division of Behavioral and Social Research. He has substantial experience from past associations with the RRC, his role at NIA as Project Scientist for the HRS, and his past research on retirement, saving, and work disability.

Carolyn Colvin’s lunchtime talk noted the importance of the RRCs role in bringing together academic researchers and policymakers. She emphasized the role of evidence-based research in preparing policymakers for changing environments and ensuring the efficiency of government programs.

Axel Borsch-Supan discussed the German Social Security System and compared, in general, United States and European circumstances. The old age dependency ratio (people aged 60+/20-59) is about 2:10 in the U.S. currently, but it is projected to reach 4:10 by 2050. In Germany, however, it is over 3:10 now and will exceed 6:10 by 2050. Thus, Europeans have faced more urgent Social Security solvency problems than the U.S. and have energetically studied, and enacted, reforms.