Kathleen J. Mullen

Photo of Kathleen Mullen
Economist; Director, RAND Center for Disability Research
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in economics, University of Chicago

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Kathleen Mullen is an economist at the RAND Corporation and director of the RAND Center for Disability Research. Her work addresses the economics of retirement, health, and disability, with an emphasis on the incentive effects of social insurance programs such as Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In her research, Mullen has employed a variety of research designs applying both reduced form and structural econometric methods. She has pursued research on, among other things, the effects of SSDI receipt on labor supply; the effects of long waiting times on the subsequent labor force participation and earnings of rejected SSDI applicants; how changes in eligibility requirements affect SSDI or Social Security claiming; and the effects of changes in Social Security or disability insurance incentives in other countries on labor supply for workers at older ages, and what those findings suggest about potential evaluations of reforms in the United States. Mullen received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.

Recent Projects

  • The effects of disability insurance benefit receipt on labor supply
  • Human capital costs of disability insurance application
  • Determinants of disability insurance claiming
  • Estimating structural models of retirement using policy variation from other countries

Selected Publications

Maestas, Nicole, Kathleen J. Mullen and Alexander Strand, "Disability Insurance and Health Insurance Reform: Evidence from Massachusetts," American Economic Review Papers & Proceedings, 104(5):329-335, 2014

Maestas, Nicole, Kathleen J. Mullen and Alexander Strand, "Does Disability Receipt Discourage Work? Using Examiner Assignment to Estimate Causal Effects of SSDI Receipt," American Economic Review, 103(5):1797-1829, 2013

Hurd, Michael D., Paco Martorell, Adeline Delavande, Kathleen J. Mullen and Kenneth M. Langa, "Monetary Costs of Dementia in the United States," The New England Journal of Medicine, 368:1326-1334, 2013

Mullen, Kathleen J., Richard G. Frank, and Meredith Rosenthal, "Can You Get What You Pay For? Pay-for-Performance and the Quality of Healthcare Providers," RAND Journal of Economics, 41(1):64-91, 2010

Hansen, Karsten T., James J. Heckman, and Kathleen J. Mullen, "The Effect of Schooling and Ability on Achievement Test Scores," Journal of Econometrics, 121(1,2):39-98, 2004

Honors & Awards

  • 2005 Dennis J. Aigner Award, Journal of Econometrics


  • Young woman and grandfather sitting hand in hand at table

    Dementia's Growing Cost to Caregivers

    At the rate that the U.S. population is aging, the total cost of dementia could reach half a trillion dollars a year by 2040. Those who care for impaired relatives and friends are acutely aware of the effects of dementia, and unfortunately they are all too familiar with its costs, writes Kathleen J. Mullen.

    Apr 29, 2013 | the RWJF's Human Capital Blog

  • a woman in bed with a laptop and her dog

    The SSDI Program's Impact on Human Capital

    The combined effects of having potentially employable individuals receive SSDI benefits, and the loss of skills among those who are denied benefits, are significant, write Nicole Maestas and Kathleen Mullen.

    Mar 8, 2013 | The RAND Blog