Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, May 14, 2020

Jacobs, Schmitz receive support for retirement research

Lindsay Jacobs, Lauren Schmitz Lindsay Jacobs, Lauren Schmitz

Two La Follette School faculty members – Lindsay Jacobs and Lauren Schmitz – received funding from the Steven H. Sandell Grant Program to support their research on retirement and disability issues.

Jacobs, an associate professor, is studying trends in the number of disabled workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which has been steadily declining. Schmitz, who joined the La Follette School in fall 2019 as an assistant professor, is studying how health and economic productivity around retirement age and up to old age vary with early-life economic conditions.

Jacobs’ project, Changes in New Disability Awards: Understanding Trends and Looking Ahead, seeks to determine the extent to which current trends in new SSDI awards can be attributed to (1) changes in cohort characteristics over time—including objective and subjective health measures and occupations held—and (2) differences over time in the relationship between these characteristics and reported work disability, SSDI application, and SSDI award.

Schmitz’s project, The Influence of Early-life Economic Shocks on Long-term Outcomes: Evidence from the U.S. Great Depression, focuses on the effects of economic downturns at birth on labor market outcomes, cardiovascular health, and physical mobility at older ages. She and her co-author, Valentina Duque (University of Sydney), will use geographic variation in economic conditions during the country’s most severe and prolonged economic downtown and restricted micro-data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine whether initial environments can influence human capital at later stages of the lifecycle.

Professor J. Michael Collins received a Sandell Award in 2016 for his project with Erik Hembre and Carly Urban Exploring the Rise of Mortgage Borrowing Among Older Americans.

The Steven H. Sandell Grant Program is funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration to provide opportunities for junior or non-tenured scholars from all academic disciplines to pursue cutting-edge projects.

Steven Sandell was a distinguished researcher, leader, and public servant. Dr. Sandell served as the first director of the Social Security Administration’s Division of Policy Evaluation, building the department from the ground up. Sandell died in 1999, and as a tribute to his lifetime achievements, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has named its grant program for junior scholars in his memory.