Senior Wins Award for Social Security Analysis
By Reid Oslin
Economics major Matthew P. List '05 has won an undergraduate research award from the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences for his thesis on the calculation of Social Security benefits paid to elderly recipients.
List will receive the award at the academy's annual dinner on April 10 in Washington, DC.
He is the second Boston College economics major to win an undergraduate research award from the academy in the past three years. Brett Huneycutt '03 received a similar honor in his senior year for his thesis on migrant remittances and micro enterprises in El Salvador.
A Holbrook, Mass., native who now lives in Katy, Tex., List had been nominated as a junior fellow at the academy by the Boston College Economics Department, making him eligible for the research competition. His winning entry examined the question of whether the Consumer Price Index used to adjust Social Security benefits each year accurately measures the rate of inflation experienced by the nation's elderly population.
"Social Security benefits are adjusted every year to keep up with the pace of inflation," List said. "To adjust that they use the Consumer Price Index that measures how prices go up for the economy as a whole. My thesis is concerned with what happens because the elderly consume a different 'market basket' than the general economy. They tend to consume more expensive health care products and the like, and the prices go up faster.
"What my thesis is looking at is, do the elderly experience a higher rate of inflation than the general economy? If so, should they have their benefits indexed by a different measure? Right now, they are being indexed by the CPI, and they are really not getting as much compensation as they should be."
List prepared his thesis under the direction of Drucker Professor of Management Sciences Alicia Munnell and Prof. Robert Murphy (Economics), both recognized experts in retirement and Social Security issues.
"Matt is a very smart and independent thinker," said Munnell. "He is a very good example of the high caliber of students that Boston College attracts."
After graduation this spring, List will accept a research analyst's position with Charles River Associates, a Boston consulting firm. He plans to attend graduate school in economics in the future.
"We think we have some very talented economics majors who are investigating interesting and important public policy topics," said Adj. Assoc. Prof. Catherine Schneider, assistant chair of the Economics Department. "To have Matt's paper chosen by an independent group confirms that.
"In a wider sense," Schneider said, "I think his selection recognizes the caliber of work being done by BC students in general. This award is another piece of the evidence that our students are competitive with the best in top universities and colleges across the country."
The American Academy of Political and Social Science was created in 1899 to provide a forum in which research on contemporary political, economic, and social issues could help inform public policy as well as enlighten the intellectually curious. In addition to publishing a bimonthly journal and other publications, the academy holds annual meetings, symposia and special events. •