July 14, 2015
Nicole Maestas, Ph.D., is an economist, professor, and expert in the study of aging. Most recently, she has been a senior economist at RAND. While there, she served as a research department director; the program director and principal investigator (PI) of a postdoctoral training program in aging; and a core economics faculty member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School. As of July 1, 2015, Dr. Maestas brings her manifold capabilities to the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy (HCP) as Associate Professor.
Barbara J. McNeil, M.D., Ph.D., Head of the Department of Health Care Policy, said, “We were excited to have Nicole join us as a faculty member because of her great skills and accomplishments. She will bring added depth to our research in disability and aging, two important areas for current and future research. She has already added to our core strengths!”
Ever since she was awarded a pre-doctoral training grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in 1997, Dr. Maestas has been immersed in the economics of aging. In particular, her research explores the interplay of the health and disability insurance systems and individual economic behaviors like labor supply and medical care consumption. She has made major contributions in three areas of study: disability economics, retirement economics, and health economics. In a 2013 study and a follow-on paper, Dr. Maestas and her coauthors showed that the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program effectively discourages both applicants and beneficiaries from seeking employment and that processing delays further reduce applicants’ employment and earnings for multiple years. In 2010, Dr. Maestas showed that 50% of all retirees pursue a retirement transition path that included partial retirement or “unretirement” (re-entry into the work force) and that labor supply at older ages is likely to increase in the future, particularly because of increased labor demand. In the area of health economics, she and her coauthors showed that Medicare eligibility causes a sharp increase in the use of health care services, which varies by the type of service, and presented the first causal evidence of an insurance-induced mortality gap in Medicare.
Dr. Maestas continues to analyze the economic incentive structures in the national disability and health care systems. A number of articles on these issues have been published in top-ranking economics journals, including the American Economic Review and the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Dr. Maestas has also been interviewed and quoted by major media outlets including New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and most recently Bloomberg Businessweek. Additionally, Dr. Maestas has testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee and served on a national disability policy panel convened by the Social Security Advisory Board. Most recently, her work informing the debate over the cause of the SSDI system’s projected upcoming insolvency in 2016 received national attention, and her research will continue to be relevant as the program labors to find a fiscal solution.
Training and teaching the next generation of scholars has also been an important aspect of Dr. Maestas’ work. RAND’s T32 Postdoctoral Training Program in the Study of Aging is funded by the National Institute on Aging, and “enables outstanding junior scholars in demographic and aging research to sharpen their analytic skills, learn to communicate research results effectively, and advance their research agenda.” As program director and PI, Dr. Maestas directed the focus, research, and training of the program. Dr. Maestas has also been the director and PI of the RAND/NIA Mini-Medical School for Social Scientists, a two-day workshop designed to expose promising junior social scientists in the field of aging to the biomedical science of aging. As director of RAND’s Economics, Sociology and Statistics Research Department, she oversaw the hiring and professional development of one-quarter of RAND’s research staff. She was the founding director of RAND’s Center for Disability Research, which aims to develop an evidence base for informing disability policy in the United States. This has, in fact, been a theme of Dr. Maestas’ research career—she seeks to combine insights from economic theory with rigorous econometric methods to advance scientific knowledge in ways that will inform policy.
Dr. Maestas received her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1991, her M.P.P. from the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley in 1997, and her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. She joined RAND in 2002 as an associate economist, and became a senior economist in 2011. Dr. Maestas is an editorial board member at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Industrial Relations, and the Journal of Pension Economics. She won the Best Paper Award in Health Economics at the Annual Paris Conference on Money, Economy and Management in 2011 and was a finalist for the 2010 National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation Research Award.
Dr. Maestas is thrilled to be working at the HMS Department of Health Care Policy. “The Department is an outstanding community of scholars. I cannot think of a better place to take my research and bring it to the next level. Furthermore, I am excited to work with graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the wider Harvard community and contribute to building our scientific infrastructure and community of collaborators in the study of aging.”