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

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3303 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

  • office Address:

    3406 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

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

Links: CV

Overview

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 which she joined in 1993. Concurrently Dr. Mitchell serves as a Research Associate at the NBER; Independent Director on the Wells Fargo Fund Boards; 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 Singapore Management University. She also advises the Centre for Pensions and Superannuation UNSW and is Faculty Affiliate of the Wharton Public Policy Initiative. 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 appeared in leading academic journal including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, 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 also blogs on Forbes. She has published over 220 books and 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 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.” In 2015, she was named a “Top 10 Women Economist” by the World Economic Forum, and in 2016Crain Communications named her a “Top 100 Innovator, Disruptor, and Change-Maker in Business.”

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.

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 & Public Policy.  Previous positions: Department Chair Insurance & Risk Management, Wharton; Assistant/Associate/Full Professor, Cornell University.  Previous 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 2010-2017
Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research; 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; Board of Editors, Journal of Pensions Management; Senior Fellow, Wharton Financial Institutions Center; Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute; Senior Scholar, CREA, Singapore Management University.

Corporate and Public Sector Leadership 2010-2017
Independent Trustee of the Wells Fargo Trust Boards; Chilean Pension Reform Commission

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Research

  • Jeffrey Brown, Arie Kapteyn, Erzo Luttmer, Olivia S. Mitchell (2016), Cognitive Constraints on Valuing Annuities, JEEA, (Forthcoming).

  • David Huffman, Raimond H. Mauer, Olivia S. Mitchell (Working), Time Discounting and Economic Decision-making among the Elderly.

  • Timothy Lu, Olivia S. Mitchell, Stephen P. Utkus, Jean Young (2016), Borrowing from the Future: 401(k) Loans and Loan Defaults, National Tax Journal, (Forthcoming).

  • Benedict Koh, Olivia S. Mitchell, Susan Rohwedder (Draft), Financial Knowledge, Wealth, and Portfolio Complexity in Singapore.

  • Olivia S. Mitchell and Anita Mukherjee (2016), Assessing the Demand for Micropensions among India\'s Poor, Journal of Economics and Aging, (Forthcoming).

  • Raimond H. Mauer, Olivia S. Mitchell, Ralph Rogalla, Tatjana Schimetschek (Work In Progress), Optimal Claiming Behavior: Theory and Evidence.

  • Raimond H. Mauer, Olivia S. Mitchell, Ralph Rogalla, Tatjana Schimetschek (2016), Will They Take the Money and Work? An Empirical Analysis of People’s Willingness to Delay Claiming Social Security Benefits for a Lump Sum, Journal of Risk and Insurance, (Forthcoming).

  • Olivia S. Mitchell and Stephen P. Utkus (Under Revision), Target-Date Funds and Portfolio Selection in 401(k) Plans.

  • Olivia S. Mitchell and John Piggott (2016), Workplace-Linked Pensions for an Aging Demographic, Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, Eds. J. Piggott and A. Woodland: Elsevier:, pp. 868-906.

  • Raimond H. Mauer, Olivia S. Mitchell, Ralph Rogalla, Ivonne Siegelin (2016), Accounting and Actuarial Smoothing of Retirement Payouts in Participating Life Annuities, Insurance Mathematics and Economics. Insurance: Mathematics and Economics , 71, pp. 268-283.

Teaching

Fall 2012: BEPP 250, Intermediate Microeconomics

Past Courses

  • BEPP250 - MANAGERIAL ECONOMICS

    This course will introduce you to "managerial economics" which is the application of microeconomic theory to managerial decision-making. Microeconomic theory is a remarkably useful body of ideas for understanding and analyzing the behavior of individuals and firms in a variety of economic settings. The goal of the course is for you to understand this body of theory well enough so that you can effectively analyze managerial (and other) problems in an economic framework. While this is a "tools" course, we will cover many real-world applications, particularly business applications, so that you can witness the usefulness of these tools and acquire the skills to use them yourself. We will depart from the usual microeconomic theory course by giving more emphasis to prescription: What should a manager do in order to achieve some objective? That course deliverable is to compared with description: Why do firms and consumers act the way they do? The latter will still be quite prominent in this course because only by understanding how other firms and customers behave can a manager determin what is best for him or her to do. Strategic interaction is explored both in product markets and auctions. Finally, the challenges created by asymmetric information - both in the market and within the firm - are investigated.

  • BEPP305 - RISK MANAGEMENT

    The last financial crisis and subsequent recession provide ample evidence that failure to properly manage risk can result in disaster. Individuals and firms confront risk in nearly all decisions they make. People face uncertainty in their choice of careers, spending and saving decisions, family choices and many other facets of life. Similarly, the value that firms create by designing and marketing good products is at risk from a variety of sources. The bankruptcy of a key supplier, sharp rise in cost of financing, destruction of an important asset, impact of global warming, or a liability suit can quickly squander the value created by firms. In extreme cases, risky outcomes can bankrupt a firm, as has happened recently to manufacturers of automobile parts and a variety of financial service firms. The events since the Global Financial Crisis also offer stark reminders that risk can impose significant6 costs on individuals, firms, governments, and society as a whole. This course explores how individuals and firms assess and evaluate risk, examines the tolls available to successfuly mange risk and discusses real-world phenomena that limit the desired amount of risk-sharing. Our focus is primarily on explaining the products and institutions that will serve you better when making decisions in your future careers and lives.

  • BEPP322 - BUS INSR & EST PLNG

    This course presents an analysis of overall private wealth management. This includes planning for disposition of closely-held business interests; the impact of income taxes and other transfer costs on business interests and other assets; integration of life insurance, disability insurance, medical benefits, and long-term care insurance in the financial plan; planning for concentrated asset (e.g. common stock) positions, diversification techniques, and asset allocation strategies; distribution of retirement assets; lifetime giving and estate planning; and analysis of current developments in the creation, conservation, and distribution of estates. Attention also is given to various executive compensation techniques (including restricted stock and stock options) and planning for various employee benefits. The course also covers sophisticated charitable giving techniques and methods for financing educaton expenses. Reading consist of textbooks, case studies, and bulk pack articles.

  • BEPP805 - RISK MANAGEMENT

    The last financial crisis and subsequent recession provide ample evidence that failure to properly manage risk can result in disaster. Individuals and firms confront risk in nearly all decisions they make. People face uncertainty in their choice of careers, spending and saving decisions, family choices, and many other facets of life. Similarly, the value that firms create by designing and marketing good products is at risk from a variety of sources. The bankruptcy of a key supplier, sharp rise in cost of financing, destruction of an important asset, impact of global warming, or a liability suit can quickly squander the value created by firms. In extreme cases, risky outcomes can bankrupt a firm, as has happened recently to manufacturers of automobile parts and a variety of financial service firms. The events since the Global Financial Crisis also offer stark reminders that risk can impose significant costs on individuals, firms, governments, and societ6y as a whole. This course explores how individuals and firms assess and evaluate risk, examines the tools available to successfully manage risk, and discusses real-world phenomena that limit the desired amount of risk-sharing. Our focus is primarily on explaining the products and institutions that will serve you better when making decisisions in your future careers and lives.

  • BEPP823 - BUS INSR & EST PLNG

    This course presents an analysis of overall private wealth management. This includes planning for disposition of closely-held business interests; the impact of income taxes and other transfer costs on business interests and other assets; integration of life insurance, disability insurance, medical benefits, and long-term care insurance in the financial plan; planning for concentrated asset (e.g., common stock) positions, diversification techniques, and asset allocation strategies; distribution of retirement assets; lifetime giving and estate planning; and analysis of current developments in the creation, conservation, and distribution of estates. Attention also is given to various executive compensation techniques (including restricted stock and stock options) and planning for various employee benefits. The course also covers sophisticated charitable giving techniques and methods for financing education expenses. Readings consist of textbook, case studies, and bulk pack articles. This course should be attractive to most students to help them plan for their own or their families' financial affairs. It also should be particularly attractive to students specializing in entrepreneurship, wealth management finance, and law.

  • BEPP950 - MANAGERIAL ECONOMICS

    Public goods, externalities, uncertainty, and income redistribution as sources of market failures; private market and collective choice models as possible correcting mechanisms. Microeconomic theories of taxation and public sector expenditures. The administration and organization of the public sector.

Awards and Honors

  • Olivia Mitchell Named 2016 EBRI Lillywhite Award Winner, 2016
  • CRAIN Top 100 Innovators, Disruptors, and Change-Makers in Business, 2016
  • Top 10 Women Economists, World Economic Forum, 2015
  • Investment Advisor Magazine “25 Most Influential People in 2011” and “50 Top Women in Wealth”, 2011
  • Retirement Income Industry Association Award for Achievement in Applied Retirement Research, 2010
  • Top 50 Women in Wealth, Wealth Management, 2010
  • Roger F. Murray First Prize – Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance, 2008
  • Carolyn Shaw Bell Award of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, 2008
  • Fidelity Pyramid Research Institute Award, 2007
  • Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Trans-Coop Program Research Award grant, 2005-2006
  • Premio Internazionale Dell’Istituto Nazionale Delle Assicurazioni, INA, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, Italy, 2003
  • Paul A. Samuelson Award for Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security, TIAA-CREF, 1999

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton

Activity

Latest Research

Jeffrey Brown, Arie Kapteyn, Erzo Luttmer, Olivia S. Mitchell (2016), Cognitive Constraints on Valuing Annuities, JEEA, (Forthcoming).
All Research

In the News

How a Lower 401(k) Cap Could Cause More Harm Than Good

As Republicans scramble to find revenue sources to fund tax cuts, Wharton experts warn against attempts to increase taxes on retirement savings.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2017/10/31
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Awards and Honors

Olivia Mitchell Named 2016 EBRI Lillywhite Award Winner 2016
All Awards