The Boettner Center

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania established the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Security to support scholarly research, teaching, and outreach on global aging, successful retirement, and public and private pensions. The Center disseminates research findings to international audiences of academics and policy-makers and supports data development efforts at the University of Pennsylvania. Olivia S. Mitchell, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor, is Boettner Center Director and founder.

Global Aging

The Boettner Center explores the challenges and opportunities associated with global aging and retirement, evaluates means to strengthen global retirement income systems, and suggests ways to address economic and social problems around the world.

Retirement Income Security

The Center funds research on retirement plan guarantees, government social insurance programs, participant-directed pensions, investment options in retirement, and regulation of annuity markets in the context of retirement systems. Projects evaluate the optimal mix between public and private retirement income programs.

Successful Retirement

The Center encourages research on saving behavior and how resources are managed during retirement, evaluating links between older peoples’ physical and mental health and successful retirement. Affiliates concerned with retirement security and financial gerontology develop models to predict and enhance financial security among the elderly.

Household Financial Decisionmaking

The Center also conducts analyses of how households use financial and insurance instruments to attain their objectives over their lifetimes, taking into account regulatory and tax considerations. Our research explores how people manage illiquid assets such as housing and human capital, methods of enhancing financial literacy, ways to protect against longevity risk, behavioral factors that lead many to make investment mistakes, and the roles of consumer regulation, disclosure rules, and investment advice.

Data Projects

The center facilitates access to research and data critical to the investigation of retirement security in the U.S. and around the world. To view current and past projects, please see our working papers.


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Olivia S. Mitchell is the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor, and 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. Concurrently Dr. Mitchell serves as a Research Associate at the NBER; Independent Director on the Allspring Funds Boards; and Executive Board Member for the Michigan Retirement Research Center. She also serves on the Academic Advisory Council for the Consumer Finance Institute at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve and the UNSW Centre for Pensions and Superannuation. In 2023, she was elected a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. She earned her B.A. in Economics from Harvard University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Advisory Board


Jere R. Behrman is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Economics, Professor of Sociology and a Research Associate at the Population Studies Center. Dr. Behrman is a leading international researcher in empirical microeconomics, with emphasis on developing economies.  His research interests include empirical microeconomics, labor economics, human resources (early childhood development, education, health, nutrition), project evaluation, economic demography, incentive systems and household behaviors. The unifying dimension of much of this research is to improve empirical knowledge of the determinants of and the impacts of human resources given unobserved factors such as innate health and ability, the functioning of various institutions such as households and imperfect markets, and information imperfections.

Irma Elo

Irma T. Elo is a Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology & Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Elo’s current research projects include analysis of race/ethnic disparities in maternal and infant and child health in Philadelphia and nationally, early life conditions and adult mortality in Finland, differences in health and mortality among native-born and foreign-born US residents, and black-white differences in “avoidable” mortality in the United States between 1980 and 2005.

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Kent Smetters is the Boettner Chair Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Besides being a professor in Business Economics and Public Policy, he is also professor of Insurance and Risk Management as well as a faculty member in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science at Penn. His research focuses on applied theory, fiscal policy, risk measurement, insurance, health care, and personal finance. Previous policy positions include the Congressional Budget Office (1995 to 1998) as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary (Economic Policy) for the United States Treasury (2001-2002). He and his coauthor recently won the 2016 TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award for their study on annuitization. He is the host of “Your Money,” a weekly personal finance radio show on SiriusXM 111 (Business Radio) as well as a monthly contributor to the Wall Street Journal. He occasionally provides support on meaningful legal cases related to medical malpractice, ERISA, insurance, financial advice and securities offerings. Kent Smetters received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University.