International Comparisons of Well-Being, Health and Retirement


The recent availability of comparable longitudinal data on older populations opens new opportunities for research on the comparative effectiveness of policies for improving health and well-being.


The research team will take a comprehensive look at the health, well-being, and economic activity of mature and elderly individuals in a wide range of countries. An important theme in the research effort is the opportunity provided by variation in institutional environment both within (as a result of changes over time) and across countries. The team will exploit this variation to learn about key behavioral parameters and to better understand the comparative effectiveness of policies for improving health and well-being.

The research aims to make the following broad contributions:

  • Expand our understanding of the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and health and how childhood events affect well-being in old age, by using unique new data from China
  • Experimentally design a Social Security system and use the experimental environment to shed light on a number of mechanisms affecting health and well-being in old age
  • Exploit changes in U.S. economic conditions and elsewhere to shed light on the behavioral and protective effects (or otherwise) of institutions during uncertain economic times
  • Explore international comparisons of population health, their dynamics, and their interaction with European and American institutions to study how these affect outcomes at older ages, including retirement, financial and subjective well-being, mental and physical health
  • Pay special attention to the relationship between family, community, and work contexts and how they affect the physical and mental health of mature and elderly adults

The research will also provide a public service in several respects. It will

  • Harmonize variable descriptions and definitions across datasets and make them available on a website for researchers, including tools that allow for data extraction
  • Make harmonized institutional information available to the wider research community

Research Staff

Jinkook Lee, adjunct economist

Susann Rohwedder, senior economist

Emma Aguila, economist

Kathleen Mullen, economist