Vegard Skirbekk, PhD

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Columbia Aging Center Faculty Member;
Professor of Population and Family Health


Vegard Skirbekk is a professor at Columbia University and a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. His work is focused on working towards understanding the links between aging and workers productivity with the goal of improving senior workers’ skills is critical to countries with aging populations. Dr. Skirbekk’s research in this area, which examines the relationships of skills and work performance, emphasizes how population aging – at the macro level – is influenced by more than biological age processes. Productivity measured against the biological age of a workforce is one aspect of the project; however, this is not a straightforward assessment. Countries with better educated populations, for example, tend to have older people with greater cognitive skill levels than countries whose populations are less well educated. This research identified that based on functional level than outcomes, the U.S. and Northern Europe are effectively younger than India or China (both of which have chronologically younger age structures than Europe), following factors such as differential investments in education and health.

Skirbekk is also interested in culture and demography. In a joint venture with PEW, Dr. Skirbekk’s research group has gathered what may be the largest collection of data on attitudes and beliefs in the world, comprising 2,500 unique censuses and surveys.

Skirbekk´s research has received considerable attention in several general science journals (e.g., New Scientist) and media (e.g., the New York Times and The Economist). As lead author or single author, he has published in the demographic research journals Demography and Population and Development Review. He has also published in academic journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and he has written articles in economic, statistics and sociology-oriented journals and books. Skirbekk co-led a 10-million European Commission project and is the recipient of a prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant.


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


Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Population and Family Health 
Columbia University, Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center 


Selected Publications:
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.
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.