Vegard Skirbekk, PhD

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Professor of Population and Family Health, Columbia Aging Center


Vegard Skirbekk is a researcher at the Columbia Aging Center with an appointment in the Department of Population and Family Health of the Mailman School. He is a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. His work as a demographer is focused on studying health, productivity, and associated determinants from a multidisciplinary perspective with an emphasis on the role of changing labor market demands, technological and cultural changes as well as variation in the attitudes, beliefs, and competences of new cohorts.

While earlier work typically used chronological age distributions to describe trends over time and variation between countries in how "old" they are, Skirbekk's research has shown that how old a population effectively is should be based on objective measures such as cognitive and physical functioning levels rather than chronological age. Accordingly, countries can be functionally younger even if they are demographically old based on objective measures rather than chronological age structures.

As project leader of the Age and Cohort Change Project, Vegard worked on extending the understanding of global variation in skills and values along age, period and cohort lines. In partnership with the Pew Research Center, his group produced the first worldwide estimates of faith and beliefs covering 199 countries in what may be the largest collection of data on attitudes and beliefs in the world. It comprises 2,500 unique censuses and surveys. Vegard also co-led a major European Commission project and is the recipient of a European Research Council Starting Grant.

He has also published in academic journals such as Nature, Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and he has written articles in economic, statistics and sociology-oriented journals and books. His work has been discussed in media around the world, including The New York Times, CNN, and The Economist.


Education & Training:
PhD, 2005, Rostock University, Germany
MPhil, 2001, University of Oslo, Norway 
Cand.Mag, 1999, Univerity of Oslo, Norway


Selected Publications:
Bonsang, E., Skirbekk, V., & Staudinger, U. M. (2017). As You Sow, So Shall You Reap: Gender-Role Attitudes and Late-Life Cognition. Psychological Science. doi: 10.1177/0956797617708634
Skirbekk, V., Potančoková, M., Hackett, C., & Stonawski, M. (2016). Religious affiliation among older age groups worldwide: Estimates for 2010 and projections until 2050. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw144.
Bowen, C.E. and Skirbekk, V. (2016) “Old age expectations are related to how long people want to live”. Ageing and Society. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X16000726.
Loichinger, E., & Skirbekk, V. (2016). International variation in ageing and economic dependency: A cohort perspective. Comparative Population Studies, 40(5), 121-144. doi: 10.12765/CPoS-2016-04en
Skirbekk, V., Stonawski M., Bonsang E. and U. Staudinger. (2012). “The Flynn Effect and Population Aging”. Intelligence.
Romeu-Gordo, L. and V. Skirbekk (2012) “Skill demand and the comparative advantage of age: Jobs tasks and earnings from the 1980s to the 2000s in Germany”. Labour Economics.
Skirbekk, V. and S. KC. (2012). “Fertility-reducing dynamics of women's social status and educational attainment”. Asian Population Studies.
Skirbekk, V., Loichinger E. and Barakat, B. F. (2012). “The Aging of the Workforce in European Countries. Demographic Trends, Retirement Projections, and Retirement Policies”. The Oxford Handbook of Work and Aging, Oxford University Press.
Blekesaune, M. and Skirbekk, V. (2012). “Can personality predict retirement behaviour? A longitudinal analysis combining survey and register data from Norway”. European Journal of Aging. 1: 1-8.