Kathleen J. Mullen

Photo of Kathleen Mullen
Senior Economist; Director, RAND Center for Disability Research; Editor-in-Chief, RAND Journal of Economics
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Ph.D. in economics, University of Chicago

Media Resources

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Kathleen Mullen (she/her) is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation and director of the RAND Center for Disability Research; she is also editor-in-chief of The RAND Journal of Economics, a leading peer-reviewed journal on industrial organization, regulation, and contracting. Her work addresses the economics of disability, health, and retirement, 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

  • Labor supply effects of disability insurance
  • Determinants of disability insurance claiming
  • Role of job demands and working conditions

Selected Publications

Maestas, Nicole, Kathleen J. Mullen and Stephanie Rennane, "Unmet Need for Workplace Accommodation," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 38(4), 2019

Mullen, Kathleen J. and Stefan Staubli, "Disability Benefit Generosity and Labor Force Withdrawal," Journal of Public Economics, 143, 2016

Hill, Matthew J., Nicole Maestas and Kathleen J. Mullen, "Employer Accommodation and Labor Supply of Disabled Workers," Labour Economics, 41, 2016

Manoli, Dayanand S., Kathleen J. Mullen and Mathis Wagner, "Policy Variation, Labor Supply Elasticities and a Structural Model of Retirement," Economic Inquiry, 53(4), 2015

Maestas, Nicole, Kathleen J. Mullen and Alexander Strand, "Disability Insurance and the Great Recession," American Economic Review Papers & Proceedings, 105(5), 2015

Maestas, Nicole, Kathleen J. Mullen and Alexander Strand, "Disability Insurance and Health Insurance Reform: Evidence from Massachusetts," American Economic Review Papers & Proceedings, 104(5), 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), 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, 2013

Honors & Awards

  • 2019 Silver Medal, RAND Corporation
  • 2012 Bronze Medal, RAND Corporation
  • 2005 Dennis J. Aigner Award, Journal of Econometrics


  • A stressed businesswoman holds her head in her hands

    Many Americans Face Bullying, Harassment, and Abuse at Work, but Bosses Can Help

    Workers are experiencing high levels of hostile behaviors at work. Nearly one in five American workers have been subjected to some form of verbal abuse, unwanted sexual attention, threats, or humiliating behavior at work, with younger non-college educated workers bearing the most risk.

    Aug 30, 2017 The RAND Blog

  • Ricardo Scarello's guide dog Pakse waits while he talks to representatives from Raytheon at the Annual Job Fair for Individuals with Visual Impairments in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 16, 2014

    Accommodation for Disabled Workers: Knowledge of Rights a Good Start

    With a 36 percent chance of becoming disabled at least once before reaching age 50, it is imperative that workers know their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the resources available to help them.

    Aug 29, 2016 The RAND Blog

  • 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