Photo of Olivia S. Mitchell

Olivia S. Mitchell

International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor

Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy

Professor of Insurance and Risk Management

Executive Director, Pension Research Council

Research Interests: economics of public and private pensions, employee benefits and compensation, health/retirement analysis and policy, international private and social insurance, labor economics and public finance, risk and crisis management

Links: CV

Dr. Olivia S. Mitchell is the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor, as well as Professor of Insurance/Risk Management and Business Economics/Policy; Executive Director of the Pension Research Council; and Director of the Boettner Center on Pensions and Retirement Research; all at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she started working in 1993. Concurrently Dr. Mitchell serves as a Research Associate at the NBER; Independent Director on the Wells Fargo Advantage Fund Trusts Board; Co-Investigator for the Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan; Member of the Executive Board for the Michigan Retirement Research Center; and Senior Scholar at the Sim Ki Boon Institute of Singapore Management University. She also advises the Centre for Pensions and Superannuation UNSW and serves on the Scientific Board for Netspar in the Netherlands; she is also Faculty Affiliate of the Wharton Public Policy Initiative. She currently serves on the Chilean Pension Reform Commission.  She received the MA and PhD degrees in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the BA in Economics from Harvard University. She is currently a Senior Editor of the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance.

Professor Mitchell's professional interests focus on public and private pensions, insurance and risk management, financial literacy, and public finance. Her research explores how systematic longevity risk and financial crises can shape household portfolios and work patterns over the life cycle, the economics and finance of defined contribution pensions, financial literacy and wealth accumulation, and claiming behavior for Social Security benefits. Her research has been published in leading academic journal including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Public Economics, and the Review of Finance, and it has been featured in outlets such as The Economist, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She has published 27 books and more than 180 articles.

Dr. Mitchell received the Fidelity Pyramid Prize for research improving lifelong financial well-being; the Carolyn Shaw Bell Award of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession; and the Roger F. Murray First Prize from the Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance. She was also honored with the Premio Internazionale Dell'Istituto Nazionale Delle Assicurazioni (INA) ex aqueo from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. Her study of Social Security reform won the Paul Samuelson Award for “Outstanding Writing on Lifelong Financial Security” from TIAA-CREF. In 2011, Investment Advisor Magazine named her one of the “25 Most Influential People” and “50 Top Women in Wealth;” in 2010 she received the Retirement Income Industry Association’s Award for Achievement in Applied Retirement Research; and in 2010 Wealth Management Magazine named her one of the “50 Top Women in Wealth.”

Previously Professor Mitchell chaired Wharton’s Department of Insurance and Risk Management, and she also taught for 16 years at Cornell University. She served as a Commissioner on the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security; a Member of the US Department of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council; and on the Board of Directors of Alexander and Alexander Services, Inc., the Board of the American Economic Association, the Advisory Board for the Central Provident Fund of Singapore, the National Academy of Social Insurance Board, the Board of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, and the GAO Advisory Board. She also co-chaired the Technical Panel on Trends in Retirement Income and Saving for the Social Security Advisory Council.

Professor Mitchell has visited and taught at numerous institutions including Harvard University, the NBER, Cornell University, the Goethe University of Frankfurt, the Singapore Management University, and the University of New South Wales. Professor Mitchell has consulted with many public and private groups including the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, the Investment Company Institute, the President’s Economic Forum, the World Bank, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the White House Conference on Social Security, the Q Group, and the Association of Flight Attendants. She has also been invited to testify for numerous committees of the US Congress, the UK Parliament, the Australian Parliament, the US Department of Labor, and the Brazilian Senate. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese, having lived and worked in Latin America, Europe, and Australasia.  


PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1978; MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1976; BA, Harvard University,1974

Recent Consulting

ESRI-Japanese Government; InterAmerican Development Bank; U.S. Social Security Administration; U.S. Government Accounting Office; U.S. Treasury; World Bank

Career and Recent Professional Awards; Teaching Awards

Roger F. Murray Prize, Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance; Carolyn Shaw Bell Award of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession; Fidelity Pyramid Research Institute Award; Doctorate (Honorary), University of St. Gallen; INA International Prize for Insurance Sciences from the Instituto Nazionale Delle Assicurazioni/Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei; TIAA-CREF/Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security; various research awards and grants for research on retirement and pension economics.

Academic Positions Held

Academic Positions Wharton: 1993-present: International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor and Executive Director Pension Research Council; Professor of Insurance/Risk Management. 2008-present; Director, Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research. 2012-present: Professor of Business Economics/ Policy. Previous positions: Wharton Department Chair Insurance/Risk Management; Cornell University Assistant/Associate/Full Professor. Visiting appointments at University of New South Wales, Australia; Goethe Universitat of Frankfurt; Celia Moh Visiting Professor, Singapore Management University, Harvard University, NBER.

Other Positions

Professional Leadership

Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research; Senior Scholar, Sim Ki Boon Institute at Singapore Management University. Also Co-PI and Executive Committee for Health and Retirement Study; Michigan Retirement Research Center Executive Committee; Scientific Advisor for Centre for Pensions and Superannuation UNSW; Advisory Board Netspar-Netherlands; Executive Committee, Penn Aging Research Center; Senior Editor, Journal of Pension Economics and Finance; Senior Fellow, Wharton Financial Institutions Center; Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute.

Corporate Leadership

Independent Trustee of the Wells Fargo Advantage Trust Boards.