Family Inequality network member Maria Casanova is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton. Her main research interest is on inter-temporal decisions of individuals and households, with a focus on labor supply and consumption/saving choices of older individuals. She has studied the sources of coordinated retirement decisions across spouses, the determinants of investment choices of individuals approaching retirement, and the nature and timing of wage declines as individuals age and their physical and cognitive abilities start deteriorating. Casanova received her Ph.D. in Economics from University College London in 2010.
Describe your area of study and how it relates to current policy discussions surrounding inequality.
My area of study is aging and retirement, that is, how people make economic decisions in regards to saving for retirement, how they decide when they are going to retire, and how they manage their assets during the retirement years. The effects of inequality can be felt at any point over the life cycle, but they really come into play after retirement. People who have had different saving rates, different opportunities to save at all, are going to have different levels of financial security after retirement. We need to understand how inequality affects saving opportunities and retirement timing if we want to help people avoid poverty in old age.
What areas in the study of inequality are most in need of new research?
Related to my work, I think that a really interesting one is related to how cognition affects the way in which people make saving decisions. Obviously, this is going to impact their post-retirement financial security. There is quite a lot of work that is coming out in this respect lately, but it is still a relatively new area. I think it is important because we know a lot about how having different resources, different education levels, different jobs, different pension plans affects how well you do in retirement. But there is an extra layer that has to do with how people who have exactly the same observable characteristics are going to fare differently depending on whether they understand the importance of contributing to employer-sposored pension plans, or how the stock markets works, or are able to make correct expectations that help them invest in the right products. So I think the effect of cognition on saving decisions.
What advice do you have for emerging scholars in your field?
My field pertains to aging, and there is a lot of interest in aging today because most Western societies have an aging problem. So my advice would just be to consider working in aging at all, which might not seem like the most attractive side of economics, but is an area that I think has a bright future. From a policy perspective, it will be very interesting in the coming years.