Health and Retirement Study

Health and Retirement Study

The [ Health and Retirement Study] (HRS) [National Institute on Aging, [ Growing Older in America: The Health and Retirement Study] , Washington, DC, National Institutes of Health, 2007.] is conducted by the [ Institute for Social Research] (ISR) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The study interviews 22,000 Americans 50 and over every two years on subjects like health care, housing, assets [Hurd, M.D., Juster F.T. and Smith J.P. Enhancing the Quality of Data on Income: Recent Innovations from the HRS. In: Journal of Human Resources, 38 (3), Summer 2003, pp. 758-772.] , pensions [Gustman, A. L., Mitchell, O. S., Samwick, A. A., and Steinmeier, T. L. Evaluating Pension Entitlements. In: Forecasting Retirement Needs and Retirement Wealth, eds. Mitchell, O., Hammond, B., and Rappaport, A. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000. pp. 309-326.] , employment and disability. HRS data are [ available for download] by researchers and analysts at no cost. The study is managed through a cooperative agreement (NIA U01AG009740) between the NIA, which provides primary funding, and the ISR, which administers and conducts the survey.

The HRS is designed to inform the national retirement discussion as the population ages. The inspiration for the HRS emerged in the mid-1980s, when scientists at NIA and elsewhere recognized the need for a new national survey of America’s expanding older population. By that time, it had become clear that the mainstay of retirement research, the Retirement History Study (RHS), conducted from 1969 to 1979, was no longer adequately addressing contemporary retirement issues. For example, the RHS sample underrepresented women, Blacks, and Hispanics who, by the mid-1980s, accounted for a larger portion of the labor force than in the past. The RHS also did not ask about health or physical or mental function, all of which can impact the decision and ability to retire. Moreover, research on the retirement process was fragmented, with economists, sociologists, psychologists, epidemiologists, demographers, and biomedical researchers proposing and conducting studies within their own "silos," often without regard to the relevant research activities of other disciplines. [Rodgers, W.L. and Herzog, A.R. Collecting data about the oldest old: Problems and procedures. In: The Oldest Old, eds., Richard M. Suzman, David P. Willis, and Kenneth G. Manton. New York: Oxford University Press. 1992. pp. 135-156]

Determining that a new approach was needed, an Ad Hoc Advisory Panel was convened by the National Institute on Aging. In early 1988 the panel recommended the initiation of a new, long-term study to examine the ways in which older adults’ changing health interacts with social, economic, and psychological factors and retirement decisions. Government experts and academic researchers from diverse disciplines were recruited to collaboratively create and design the study. Ultimately, relevant executive agencies and the United States Congress recognized the value of this major social science investment, and the HRS was established.

Many individuals and institutions have contributed to the planning, design, development, and ongoing administration of the study. This includes the study’s leadership at the Institute for Social Research, specifically HRS Director Emeritus F. Thomas Juster, who led the effort to initiate the HRS [Wealth, Work, and Health: Innovations in Measurement in the Social Sciences: Essays in honor of F. Thomas Juster, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1999.] , Robert J. Willis, the Director from 1995 to 2007, and David R. Weir, the current Director. They rely on the contributions of the [ HRS co-investigators] , a multidisciplinary group of leading academic researchers at the University of Michigan and other institutions nationwide, a Steering Committee and working groups, which have provided critical advice about the study’s design and monitored its progress, and the NIA-HRS Data Monitoring Committee, an advisory group of independent members of the academic research community and representatives of agencies interested in the study. The Monitoring Committee has been chaired by the late George Myers, and by David Wise, and is currently chaired by James Smith, who also served as chair of the Ad Hoc Advisory Panel. From its inception, the NIA project officer for the HRS has been Dr. Richard Suzman, currently Director of NIA’s [ Behavioral and Social Research program] .

In addition, the Social Security Administration has provided technical advice and substantial support for the study. Over the HRS’s history, other important contributors have included the United States Department of Labor’s Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the State of Florida.

The HRS has a number of sister studies in other countries. In recent years, the HRS has been extended to several Asian countries, including Korea (the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging or KLoSA). Japan (the Japanese Health and Retirement Study or JHRS), China (the Chinese Health and Retirement Survey or CHARLS) and India (The Longitudinal Survey of Aging in India or LASI). Population aging is very rapid in Asia and India and China alone will have more than one billion people over age 60 during this century. CHARLS is headed by a team at the Chinese Center for Economic Research (CCER) at Peking University under the direction of Professor Zhou Yaohui, who received her PhD in economics at the University of Chicago. LASI is jointed headed by a team from Harvard University under the direction of Professor David Bloom and the International Institute of Population Studies (IIPS) in Mumbai India. Both CHARLS and LASI were awarded peer review grants to conduct pilot studies by the National Institute of Aging in the United States. Other studies include:
* English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)
* [ Mexican Health and Aging Study] (MHAS)
* Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)
* [ New Zealand Health, Work and Retirement Survey]
* [ Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging]
* [ WHO's Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health] (SAGE)



last=National Institute on Aging
title=Growing Older in America: The Health and Retirement Study
publisher=National Institutes of Health
place=Washington, DC
url =

editor2-first=P. Brett
editor3-first=Anna M.
title=Forecasting Retirement Needs and Retirement Wealth
publisher=University of Pennsylvania Press

External links

* [ Health and Retirement Study]

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