Social Impact

SOA research of public interest R. Dale Hall

While there are many different types of research projects that we conduct and fund through the Society of Actuaries (SOA) for our members and the industry, I want to specifically mention research that has particular public interest and social impact. In past articles, I’ve mentioned the retirement risks survey findings and the work with health care coverage, and since then there have been several more activities.

Good Research Reads

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) will support a major undertaking with new work on the Human Mortality Database (HMD) through researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Spanning 38 countries, the HMD provides detailed mortality and population data to researchers, students, journalists, policy analysts and others interested in the history of human longevity. The SOA’s grant will help the researchers create a historical time series of mortality tables specific to causes of death for eight populations (United States, Japan, England and Wales, France, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Chile). Another SOA-sponsored project will analyze U.S. life table series at a state level from 1959 to 2013.

The SOA Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks released a new collection of essays on diverse risks encountered in retirement. The essays focus on three primary areas: defined contribution plan risk management strategies, decumulation strategies for retirement and long-term care financing. The essays represent a wide of range of thinking in these areas and will be used to inform future committee efforts.

The SOA developed an issue brief for the public, which provides consideration when deciding whether to take a lump sum distribution or a monthly pension for life.

For instance, we currently are developing a U.S. public pension plan mortality table study. This public pension research will be a useful reference for these plans to consider in their valuations. It builds upon our continued work within the Retirement Plans Experience Committee to update private pension mortality tables and mortality improvement models. And, of course, there is the previously-commissioned report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Public Pension Funding, which helped provide further insights within pension funding.

Earlier this year, we expressed interest in pursuing research on practice expansion and socially relevant topics. The SOA Research Executive Committee is helping cultivate innovative and practical ideas that expand the boundaries of the actuarial profession to new practice areas and emerging topics. These efforts are helping create additional intellectual capital that serves the interest of the public. We established a goal on research with social relevance to help keep the profession focused on objective research that the public and other stakeholders can use to inform their decisions on key societal issues. Stay tuned for updates on the progress of those proposal requests and the potential for new research in these areas.

We also are gathering research volunteers for SOA Project Oversight Groups (POGs) on research focusing on climate, weather and environmental sources. Consider volunteering some of your time and expertise with one of these POGs. The groups will help identify research projects to consider on climate, extreme weather events, and environmental sustainability affecting the insurance industry and government agencies. This research is in addition to the collaborative efforts with the American Academy of Actuaries, the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries to launch the Actuaries Climate Index. This index brings together data analysis on severe weather in the United States and Canada.

I encourage you to visit for updates on our ongoing research projects and new proposals. Additionally, visit the SOA Engage Research Community, where you can comment on the latest research, share your perspectives and discuss new research ideas.

Related Link
Research Opportunities

R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, MAAA, is managing director of Research at the Society of Actuaries.