James P. Smith

james smith, s6165
Distinguished Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic Studies
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in economics, University of Chicago; B.S. in economics, Fordham University

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James P. Smith holds the Distinguished Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic Studies at the RAND Corporation. He has studied immigration, the economics of aging, black-white wages and employment, the effects of economic development on labor markets, wealth accumulation and savings behavior, the interrelation of health and economic status, and the effects of attrition and nonresponse in the National Institute on Aging's Health and Retirement Study (HRS). He is principal investigator for the New Immigrant Survey, which yields adequate sample size of the foreign-born, has known sampling properties, permits longitudinal analyses, and can answer policy questions of relevance to immigration.

Smith chaired the Panel on Demographic and Economic Impacts of Immigration (1995–1997), the Committee on Population, and the Committee on National Statistics, National Academy of Sciences. He has been an invited speaker before the President's Initiative on Race in Phoenix, the Federal Reserve Board of Los Angeles, and the Prime Minister and members of Parliament of New Zealand, among many others. Smith has twice received the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Merit Award, the most distinguished honor NIH grants to a researcher. In 2013, Smith received an honorary degree of Doctor of the University from the University of Stirling, Scotland; in 2011, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine; and in 2009, he received the Ulysses Medal from University College Dublin. Smith received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.

Recent Projects

  • Housing Price Risk, Home Ownership, and Wealth
  • New Immigrant Survey
  • Life Satisfaction around the World
  • International Differences in Health, Longevity, and SES
  • Economic Status, Health and Well-Being Over the Life Course and Across Generations

Selected Publications

James P. Smith, Iris Kesternich, Bettina Siflinger, and Joachim Winter, "The Effects of World War II on Economic and Health Outcomes across Europe," The Review of Economics and Statistics, 96(1):1-3-118, 2013

James P. Smith and James Banks, "International Comparisons in Health Economics: Evidence from Aging Studies," Annual Reviews in Economics, 4:57-81, 2012

James P. Smith, Alissa Goodman and Robert Joyce, "The Long Shadow Cast by Childhood Physical and Mental Problems on Adult Life," PNAS; Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, 1108(15):6032-6037, 2011

James P. Smith and Gillian C. Smith, "Long-Term Economic Costs of Psychological Problems during Childhood," Social Science and Medicine, 71(1):110-115, 2010

James P. Smith, "The Impact of Childhood Health on Adult Labor Market Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, 91(3):478-489, 2009

James P. Smith, "Nature and Causes of Trends in Male Diabetes Prevalence, Undiagnosed Diabetes, and the Socioeconomic Status Health Gradient," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(33):13225-1323, 2007

James P. Smith, "The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health over the Life-Course," Journal of Human Resources, 42(4):739-764, 2007

James P. Smith, A. Kapteyn and A. vanSoest, "Vignettes and Self-Reported Work Disability in the US and The Netherlands," American Economic Review, 97(1):461-473, 2007

Honors & Awards

  • Merit Award, National Institutes of Health (1995-2005 and 2005-2015)
  • Elected Member, Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Science (2011)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor, University of Stirling, Scotland (2013)


  • an American flag superimposed over people

    Immigration Needs a Hybrid Fix

    Is there a way out of the dilemma? I think there is: a simultaneous combination of a pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants already here and a serious commitment to enforce the law without ambiguity in the future, writes James P. Smith.

    Nov 2, 2012 The Orange County Register

  • One More Embrace, Then Slam the Door

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    May 1, 2005 Los Angeles Times