categories: (1) demographic and health measurement and projections; (2) capacity to work and longer working life; (3) changes in consumption and saving; and (4) modeling efforts and data needs. The request from the NIA did not extend to prioritizing a research agenda, and the committee did not attempt to do so. The NIA and other research organizations dealing with questions about an aging society have many competing inputs and priorities, and since the committee did not evaluate them all, the committee felt it was inappropriate to be prescriptive about research priorities. Rather, these recommendations are designed to broadly inform NIA’s strategic research direction on the consequences of an aging society and to enable a more complete understanding of the relationship between population aging and the economy in the future.


1a. Improve methods of projecting mortality by age, sex, and socioeconomic characteristics. Projections of future life expectancy and mortality made by government agencies and demographers differ significantly, in part because projection methods and assumptions differ. The committee believes that increases in life expectancy will likely be more rapid than currently assumed in many projections. Research should consider whether (1) projections could be improved by explicitly taking into account trends in mortality related to smoking, obesity, and other behavioral factors, (2) projections could be improved by taking into account mortality differences by race/ethnicity and educational level (these are particularly important in light of current discussions about increasing the early and full retirement ages, which would have a larger proportional effect on expected years of retired life for groups with lower life expectancy and education), and (3) there is room for further improvement in projections based on formal demographic analysis of past trends and on trends within groups of countries.

1b. Investigate distributional aspects of the relationships between life expectancy, capacity to work, and income. Although the rising disparity in life expectancy across the income distribution has been documented, little is known about the causes of this widening. Similarly, little is known about trends in the capacity to work by income. Understanding the relationship between income distribution, capacity to work, and life expectancy—and having some basis for projecting these trends forward—is important to evaluating the distributional effects of proposals related to raising the eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare.

1c. Better understand specific risk factors that are precedents of disability, including personal characteristics such as obesity and occupational hazards.

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