David M. Cutler, David A. Wise, and Richard G. Woodbury
An accumulating body of research has identified significant and ongoing improvements over time in the functional ability of older people, both in the United States and throughout the world. The implications of declining disability are enormous, and measurable in both social and economic terms. This volume is part of a continuing NBER project to understand the foundations of disability decline, what might be done to extend and even accelerate future improvements in functional ability, and how the benefits of disability decline can be evaluated and quantified in economic terms. Why is this so important?
The quality of later life. People are living longer than at any time in history. But will those increased years of life be characterized by functional disability or functional independence? Declining disability into the future will assure not just more years of life, but a better quality of later life.
Population aging. In addition to living longer as individuals, the baby boom generation is approaching retirement age. Thus the fastest-growing population groups in the future will be the oldest—those in their seventies, eighties, and nineties. Declining disability will moderate the economic and social challenges of a growing older population.
Disability and work. Disability is a major reason that people retire from the labor force. Disability declines will enable people to work longer, earn
David M. Cutler is the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard Univer-
sity, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. David A. Wise
is the John F. Stambaugh Professor of Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of
Government, Harvard University, and director of the program on aging at the National Bu-
reau of Economic Research. Richard G. Woodbury is associated with the program on aging
at the National Bureau of Economic Research.