Spaghetti unravelled

ISER's Professor Stephen Jenkins ISER’s Professor Stephen Jenkins

Spaghetti Unravelled: How Income Varies With Age was the topic of this year’s Downing Lecture at the university of Melbourne which was given by ISER’s Professor Stephen Jenkins.

The lecture presented new evidence about the shape of people’s income-age trajectories. Professor Jenkins demonstrated that, collectively, trajectories look like cooked spaghetti – a complex mix of wiggly lines. But, the spaghetti can be unravelled. He went on to summarise the key features of income-age trajectories – both the average trajectory for groups of individuals with similar characteristics and the differences from the average within groups (which are substantial).

He said:

“Knowledge of how income varies with age on average, and the extent to which individual trajectories differ from an average profile, is relevant to many aspects of social policy making. For example, how your income varies over your life is an important determinant of your spending possibilities and hence economic well-being at different ages, and your ability to save for old age, whether privately or through company, occupational, or state pension schemes. Even if income increases with age on average, this is consistent with considerable year-on-year fluctuation in the incomes of a minority, or a mixture of subgroups with rising income and subgroups whose income is falling. Such heterogeneity complicates the design of effective policies for fostering saving by all.”

Stephen Jenkins has just completed a term of office as ISER Director, and is visiting the Melbourne Institute until Decvember 2009. He has wide-ranging substantive research interests in income distribution and labour market topics, and methodological research interests in microeconometric methods for longitudinal data. He is a member of the UK’s National Equality Panel. He was President of the European Society for Population Economics in 1998, and Chair of the Council of the International Association for Research on Income and Wealth, 2006–8.



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