UMass Boston has begun a five-year partnership with the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR) as an affiliated research institution, a collaboration that opens opportunities for UMass Boston researchers and students. In the first year of the partnership, two UMass Boston gerontology research projects have won funding and three paid summer research fellowship positions have been created exclusively for UMass Boston undergraduates.

The CRR is one of six national centers in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Retirement and Disability Research Consortium. Since the consortium’s launch in 1998, CRR staff have conducted interdisciplinary research, trained scholars, and disseminated information on all aspects of retirement income.

In its most recent round of five-year funding awards to consortium members, the SSA emphasized goals of improving diversity and reaching more underserved populations. CRR reached out to UMass Boston, home to a thriving gerontology program and a highly diverse student population. UMass Boston joins the Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy, Syracuse University, and the Urban Institute as affiliated organizations of the Boston College center.

“We wanted to fully meet the SSA’s goals for improving diversity and outreach in our renewal proposal, and UMass Boston is an ideal partner,” says Andy Eschtruth, CRR deputy director. “It’s a very diverse institution serving a large population of students of color, it’s right here in Boston, it’s home to leading scholars interested in public policy, economic security, and other related fields. And UMass researchers have strong relationships with the underserved communities we want to reach.”

“We welcome this partnership with the Center for Retirement Research,” says Jan Mutchler, director of the Gerontology Institute. “Our expertise in areas such as financial security and long-term care costs complement the center’s focus, and we welcome multi-disciplinary research projects from colleagues across the university. The center produces excellent research; it also does an especially good job of training and communicating with the public. The CRR’s commitment to these areas aligns with who we are and what we value.”

The two joint research projects recently funded by the SSA are:

  •  “Improving Social Security Information with Black and Hispanic Communities,” led by Caitlin Coyle, director of the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at UMass Boston, and Jean-Pierre Aubry, associate director of state and local research at CRR.
  • “Which LTSS Caregiver Support Policies Are Preferred, and Can They Reduce Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Retirement Security?” led by Marc Cohen, co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston; Brandon Wilson, senior director of Community Catalyst’s Center for Community Engagement in Health Innovation; Christian Weller, public policy professor at UMass Boston; and Anqi Chen, senior research economist and assistant director of savings research at CRR.

Forty-five UMass Boston undergraduates applied for CRR’s summer 2024 paid fellowships. Three students will gain research experience and professional development in aging policy, financial security, and other retirement issues. “The goal is to continue building more diverse academic research populations,” Mutchler says, “while increasing young people’s awareness of career opportunities and academic fields that may be new to them.”