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Yung-Ping Chen (born November 24, 1930) is an American economist and gerontologist of Chinese origin. He pioneered the concept of home equity conversion (reverse mortgages) in the United States and developed innovative approaches to the funding of Social Security benefits and long-term care. His scholarship has contributed to a better understanding of the economic, political, and social implications and challenges of today's "mass aging" phenomenon—the ongoing and unprecedented shift to an increasingly elder-populated society.

Yung-Ping Chen
Yung-Ping Chen.jpg
yung gang boi

(1930-11-24) November 24, 1930 (age 88)
InstitutionUniversity of Massachusetts Boston
FieldEconomics, Gerontology
Alma materNational Taiwan University, University of Washington
ContributionsFunding Social Security and long-term care, home-equity conversion (reverse mortgage)
AwardsRobert W. Kleemeier Award for Outstanding Research (Gerontological Society of America, 2010)
John S. Bickley Founder's Award Gold Medal for Excellence (International Insurance Society, 2012)



Born in Jingjiang, Jiangsu Province, China, Chen went to the United States for graduate school in 1955 and remained there to teach economics and gerontology for 50 years. He retired in 2009. He is married and has three children and six grandchildren. A graduate of National Taiwan University in Taipei, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is currently professor emeritus of gerontology and a fellow in the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he was the first holder of the Frank J. Manning Eminent Scholar's Chair in Gerontology, a professorship established by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1988, and where he participated in launching the Ph.D. program in gerontology. Previously he was professor of economics and the first holder of the Frank M. Engle Distinguished Chair in Economic Security Research at the American College, Bryn Mawr, PA. Prior to that he taught at UCLA, Seattle Pacific College (now University), and the University of Washington. He served as delegate and/or consultant to four consecutive White House Conferences on Aging (1971 to 2005) and as delegate to the 1998 White House Conference on Social Security. A founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, he is a fellow in both the Gerontological Society of America and the World Demographic Association. He received the Actuarial Foundation's John E. Hanson Memorial Prize (2009, co-recipient), the Gerontological Society of America's Robert W. Kleemeier Award for Outstanding Research (2010), and the International Insurance Society's John S. Bickley Founder's Award Gold Medal for Excellence (2012).


Chen's research and associated program and policy proposals are founded on the principles of (a) fostering personal responsibility and societal solidarity by combining public- and private-sector programs and policies when feasible; (b) addressing the inevitable contingencies of individual and societal finances by employing risk-pooling mechanisms of both private and social insurance; (c) augmenting the potential benefits from finite budget resources facing individual, household, or government by means of tradeoffs; and (d) placing greater value on enhancing income generation opportunities for individuals than on providing financial assistance to them, while recognizing the need for the latter under certain circumstances. His portfolio of work, embodied in some 200 publications, encompasses a range of concepts, policies, and programs that have advanced the knowledge base regarding old-age economic security from both the individual and the societal point of view. Chen's work falls principally into six areas:

1. Home-equity conversion (reverse mortgage)
2. Financing and benefit structure of Social Security
3. Funding long-term care
4. Gaps in private pension coverage for minority workers
5. Work and retirement options for older workers
6. Special tax treatments and economic status of the aged

Home-equity conversion (reverse mortgage)Edit

In the early 1960s Chen began conducting research on income and wealth distribution among older persons. In an effort to address the dilemma of some older people being "income-poor and house-rich," Chen made the case for a voluntary conversion of home equity into annuity income as a means by which older homeowners could augment their income from other sources and keep their homes, while lessening the pressure on societal assistance programs.[1][2][3][4] His 1973 monograph on the receptivity of home-equity conversion (reverse mortgage) inspired the first National Reverse Mortgage Development Conference in May 1979. The theory of home-equity conversion received a major boost in the policy arena when the reverse-mortgage concept[5] was endorsed by the 1981 White House Conference on Aging.[6] The first reverse mortgage was issued in 1989 under an FHA-guaranteed Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) as a pilot program authorized by the 1987 Housing and Community Development Act. The program was made permanent by an act of Congress in 1998.

Financing and benefit structure of Social SecurityEdit

Chen has made a number of contributions to policy development in the area of Social Security, one of his career-long research interests.[7][8] He developed the concept of "total dependency ratio" (which combines the ratios to the working-age population of both aged beneficiaries and dependent children) as an improved method for evaluating overall costs of dependent populations.[9] His analysis of the topic was discussed at the 1979 Advisory Council on Social Security,[10] and the Social Security trustees' annual report to Congress began reporting total dependency ratios along with aged dependency ratios,[11] a practice that continues today.

Against a backdrop of intensifying public debate in the late 1970s about Social Security's long-term solvency, a 1981 article by Chen was the first to call attention to the implications of proliferating employee fringe benefits for the solvency of Social Security. This work helped guide financing discussions throughout the Social Security "crisis debates" of the 1980s.[12][13][14][15][16][17] Chen's 1980 introductory Social Security text discussed the implications of changing family patterns for the benefit structure of Social Security. It pointed out that the largely static (and therefore outdated) Social Security benefit structure leaves the most financially vulnerable people—often women, minorities, and children—with increasingly less or no protection.[18][19][20] He has continued to write and testify on this subject,[21] urging legislative attention to the need to provide improved Social Security benefits not only to retired and disabled workers but also to their eligible dependents and survivors, including children.

In the 1990s, in an effort to resolve politically contentious debates regarding Social Security reform, Chen designed the "Social Security Plus Pension Supplement Plan" (SS + PS), combining social insurance and individual accounts, as a means for eliminating Social Security's long-range deficit while maintaining or improving rates of return for future beneficiaries. Envisioned as a 10-year national demonstration project that could be acceptable to both advocates of individual accounts and proponents of traditional methods of raising revenues and reducing benefits via social insurance principles, the plan was included in the document issued by the 1998 White House Conference on Social Security.[22][23]

Funding long-term careEdit

In 1989 Chen proposed the idea of "trading off" a small portion of Social Security benefits (exempting low earners from the trade-off for this benefit) to create a "Social Security/Long-Term Care Plan" (SS/LTC) that would provide a basic level of long-term-care protection using the social insurance mechanism.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32] The plan is based on a new model of public and private partnership consisting of a public social insurance benefit as a base, with supplementation from private long-term-care insurance and individual payments, while Medicaid (a welfare program) is kept as a safety net for the poor. SS/LTC is designed to make paying for long-term care more rational and dependable by (1) employing the insurance principle in the design of both private- and public-sector programs and (2) creating linkages to combine several sources of funds that currently exist both privately and publicly.

Gaps in private pension coverage for minority workersEdit

Chen was among the first to investigate the different coverage rates for black and Hispanic workers under private pension programs.[33] His research in this area explored the nature of growing gaps in pension coverage between these minority workers and white workers,[34][35][36] one result of which was to identify the "voluntary" nature of salary reduction plans (such as 401ks) as a key factor in these coverage gaps, since minority workers were less likely to elect enrollment in such programs.

Work and retirement options for older workersEdit

Chen's 1987 article, "Making Assets out of Tomorrow's Elderly," marked the beginning of his writing and research on the concept of "productive aging" and its associated implications for work and retirement. This concept is premised on the benefits of a changed societal perspective toward older people, recognizing their value as potential societal assets rather than primarily as societal liabilities. One outgrowth of such a perspective shift was the notion of "gradual retirement,"[37] based on growing concerns about a projected workforce decline as Baby Boomers reached retirement age, along with survey results that reflected many older people's interest in continuing to work part-time after retirement. Recognition of the many practical issues and complexities associated with phased retirement led Chen to argue for increased awareness of the need, both in the U.S. and abroad, for strategies that would create more work flexibility for workers in general—regardless of age, gender, or disability status—as a means of increasing the labor supply and promoting social cohesion via a universal policy that does not, de facto, pit one group of workers against another.

Special tax treatments and economic status of the agedEdit

Chen's interest in the economic circumstances of the aged dates to the beginnings of his career in the early 1960s, during which he conducted research examining the efficacy of tax measures favoring older people.[38] As a result of this work his assistance was sought in the crafting and implementation of innovative "circuit-breaker" legislation in Wisconsin (involving property tax relief to older renters)[39] and in California (involving a sliding scale for property tax concession, based on the assessed value of the older person's home and his or her income).[40] His ongoing scholarship and policy development on the economic circumstances of older people have emphasized the combined role of macroeconomic policies and individual behavior in providing economic security, while also stressing the problematic nature of achieving economic security in old age without accessible and adequately financed health care and long-term care.[41]


  1. ^ Testimony of Peter H. Bell, President & CEO, National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association before the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing & Community Opportunity House Financial Services Committee, May 9, 2012, U.S. House of Representatives. ([permanent dead link] ["The first reverse mortgage loan is generally thought to have been made privately in 1961 by Nelson Haynes of Deering Savings & Loan in Portland, Maine to a widow named Nellie Young. Over the next 20 years, various studies and surveys were conducted to explore the viability of such a product, most notably those by Yung-Ping Chen of UCLA and Jack Guttentag of The Wharton School and largely driven by Ken Scholen, then working with the Wisconsin Board on Aging, who wrote three books on the subject." (p. 3)]
  2. ^ Guttentag, J. M. Creating a New Financial Instrument: The Case of Reverse Mortgages. Working Paper No. 19-73. Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. 1973.([permanent dead link] [In his footnote 1 (p. 2), Guttentag explains: "I first encountered the proposal [for a reverse mortgage instrument] in an unpublished manuscript by Gray, and incorporated it in a broader set of proposals for developing new financial instruments….At that time I was unaware of the work of Chen which had been published some two years earlier."]
  3. ^ Guerin, J.L. Spotlight: A historical timeline of the HECM program. The Reverse Review, October 2012, 40-45. ([permanent dead link] ["1969: The reverse mortgage concept begins to take root at a congressional hearing before the Senate Committee on Aging. UCLA professor Yung-Ping Chen testifies: 'I think an actuarial mortgage plan in the form of a housing annuity can serve two purposes: First, to enable older homeowners to realize the fruits of savings in the form of home equity; and second, to enable those homeowners, who wish to remain in their homes either for physical convenience or for sentimental attachment, to do as they wish.' Intrigued, the committee chairman responds, 'Well, that is interesting.'" (p. 40)]
  4. ^ Gibler, K. M., & Rabianski, J. Elderly interest in home equity conversion. Housing Policy Debate, 1993, 4(4), 565-588. (see p. 569)
  5. ^ Quinn, J.B. On reverse mortgage. Newsweek. March 30, 1981, 75. (
  6. ^ The Conference recommended that "the FHA [Federal Housing Administration] should develop and/or pool insurance programs for reverse mortgage and deferred payment home repair loans." [1981 White House Conference on Aging Housing Recommendations: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Housing and Consumer Interests of the Select Committee on Aging, House of Representatives, Ninety-seventh Congress, Second Session, March 8, 1982. (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982, p. 6.)]
  7. ^ Achenbaum, W. A., & Albert, D. M. Profiles in gerontology: A biographical dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, 77-78.
  8. ^ Rohrlich, G. F. Book Review of Social Security in a Changing Society. Monthly Labor Review, September 1981, 104(9), 54.
  9. ^ Ball, R. M. Cutting Social Security benefits is unnecessary and wrong: Reagan Social Security cuts and the Committee on Ways and Means response to the first budget resolution, Testimony before the Select Committee on Aging, House of Representatives, May 21, 1981.
  10. ^ U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Social Security Financing and Benefits, Report of the 1979 Advisory Council on Social Security. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980, 243-285. (see pp. 281-285)
  11. ^ Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives. 1977 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds. 95th Congress. 1st session (House Document No. 95-150). Washington, DC U.S. Government Printing office, May 1977. (see Appendix A, p. 63.)
  12. ^ Rinder, R., & Munnell, A. H. The Future of Social Security: An Exchange. New York Review of Books, March 17, 1983, 41-45. (see footnote 4) (
  13. ^ Woodbury, S. A., Substitution of wage and nonwage benefits. American Economic Review, March 1983, 166-182. (see p. 166)
  14. ^ Wilkin, J. C., Gresch, R. V., & Glanz, M. P. Growth in fringe benefits. Actuarial Note No. 113, Office of the Actuary, Social Security Administration, June 1982. (see p. 1) ([permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Koretz, G. Economic Diary column, Business Week, January 11, 1982, 24.
  16. ^ Munnell, A.H. Employee benefits and the tax base. New England Economic Review. January/February 1984, 39-55. (see pp. 43-44)
  17. ^ National Commission on Social Security Reform, Memorandum No. 50. Adjusting the payroll tax base to compensate for the erosion of the tax base due to the growth of fringes. September 7, 1982. (see pp. 1-2) (
  18. ^ Urban Institute. Social Security: Out of step with the modern family. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2000. (see p. 5) (
  19. ^ Laursen, E.. The people's pension: The struggle to defend Social Security since Reagan. Oakland, Edinburgh, Baltimore: AK Press, 2012. (see p. 651)
  20. ^ Pfizer Journal. How families matter in health: Challenges of the evolving 21st-century family. New York: Pfizer Inc., 2003. (see p. 32)
  21. ^ Chen, Y-P. Social Security's family benefits and the fiscal commission. Testimony presented to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, June 24, 2010. ([permanent dead link]
  22. ^ The White House Conference on Social Security (1998). Statements from Participants. December 8–9, 1998, pp. 37-38.([permanent dead link]
  23. ^ Hughes, G., & Stewart, J. (Eds.). The Role of the state in pension provisions: employer, regulator, provider. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999. (see pp. 153-157)
  24. ^ Hudson, R. Social contingencies, the aged and public policy. Milbank Quarterly, 1993, 71(2), 253–277. (see pp. 270-271)
  25. ^ Howe, A. L. Extending the pillars of social policy financing to aged care. Social Policy and Administration, December 1999, 33(5), 534-551. (see p. 541).
  26. ^ Pfizer Journal, op. cit., pp. 34-35
  27. ^ Gleckman, H. How about using Social Security to pay for long-term care? Forbes, November 17, 2011. (
  28. ^ Costa-Font, J., & Courbage, C. (Eds.). Financing long-term care in Europe: Institutions, markets and models. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. (see p. 146)
  29. ^ St. John, S., Dale, M. C., & Ashton, T. Preparing for the health and long-term care costs of New Zealand's ageing population. New Zealand Population Review, 2012, 38, 55-76. (see p. 56.) ([permanent dead link]
  30. ^ Wolf, D.A., & Folbre, N. (Eds.). Universal coverage of long-term care in the United States: Can we get there from here. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2012. (see pp. 228-229)
  31. ^ Howe, A. L. Health care costs of an aging population: The case of Australia. Reviews in Critical Gerontology, 1997, 7, 339-365. (see p. 363)
  32. ^ Norton, E.C., & Newhouse, J.P. Policy options for public long-term care insurance. Journal of the American Medical Association. May 18, 1994, 271(19), 1520-1524. (see pp. 1523-1524)
  33. ^ Rosenblatt, R.A. Sharp drop in minorities' pension coverage found. Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1996. (
  34. ^ Hendley, A. A., & Bilimoria, N. Minorities and Social Security: An analysis of racial and ethnic differences in the current programs. Social Security Bulletin, 1999, 62(2), 59-64. (see p. 61) ([permanent dead link]
  35. ^ Hungerford, T., Rassette, M., Iams, H., & Koeing, M. Trends in the economic status of the elderly, 1976-2000. Social Security Bulletin, 2001, 64(3) ([permanent dead link]
  36. ^ Munnell, A. H., & Perun, P. An update on private pensions. New York, NY: The Aspen Institute, October 2007 (see pp. 7, 9-10) ([permanent dead link]
  37. ^ Pfizer Journal, op. cit., p. 33
  38. ^ Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Property tax circuit-breakers: Current status and policy issues. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1975. (see p. 1) (
  39. ^ Moon, M., & Smolensky, E. Income, economic status, and policy toward the aged (Institute for Research on Poverty Papers No. 350-76), University of Wisconsin-Madison, June 1976. (see pp. 5, 23) ([permanent dead link]
  40. ^ California State Assembly Interim Committee on Revenue and Taxation. Taxation of property in California. Sacramento: California Office of State Printing, 1964, 164-201.
  41. ^ Chen, Y-P. How to create a social insurance program for basic long-term care coverage. Hearing on the Retirement Policy Challenges and Opportunities of our Aging Society, Ways and Means Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, May 19, 2005.

External linksEdit

Selected bibliographyEdit

Home-equity conversion (reverse mortgage)Edit

  • Chen, Y-P. Taxation of the aged: Some issues and possible solutions. Proceedings, 58th Annual Conference of the National Tax Association, 1965, 206-225.
  • Chen, Y-P. A pilot survey study of the Housing-Annuity Plan (HAP), monograph submitted to Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC, published as Occasional Paper No. 6 by Housing, Real Estate, and Urban Land Studies Program. Los Angeles: University of California, 1973.
  • Chen, Y-P. Making a theory work: The case of homeownership by the aged. August 1, 1969 Hearings on Homeownership Aspects of the Economics of the Aging, Special Committee on Aging, Subcommittee on Housing for the Elderly, U.S. Senate, 91st Congress, 1st Session (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969), 829-845. ([permanent dead link] (Reprinted in Aging and Human Development, 1970, 1, 919)
  • Chen, Y-P. Unlocking home equity for the elderly (Ed. with K. Scholen). Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1980.

Financing and benefit structure of Social SecurityEdit

  • Chen, Y-P. The growth of fringe benefits: Implications for Social Security. Monthly Labor Review, November 1981, 3-10.
  • Chen, Y-P. Social Security in a changing society. Bryn Mawr, PA: McCahan Foundation for Research in Economic Security, The American College, 1980 (1st ed.) and 1983 (2nd ed.).
  • Chen, Y-P. Changing family roles: Their impact on benefit programs. In D. L. Salisbury (Ed.), America in transition: Implications for employee benefits. Washington, DC: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 1982, 5-14.
  • Chen, Y-P. Social Security reform: A worldwide phenomenon. Journal of Aging and Social Policy, 2002, 14(1), 1-8.

Funding long-term careEdit

  • Chen, Y-P. Tie long-term care to Social Security. The New York Times, A18. September 18, 1989. (
  • Chen, Y-P. A "three-legged stool": A new way to fund long-term care? In Care in the long term: In search of community and security. Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993, 54-70.
  • Chen, Y-P. Financing long-term care: An intragenerational social insurance model. The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance, No. 73, October 1994, 490-495.
  • Chen, Y-P. Funding long-term care in the United States: The role of private insurance. The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance, 2001, 26(4), 656-666.
  • Chen, Y-P. Funding long-term care: Applications of the trade-off principle in both public and private sectors. Journal of Aging and Health, February 2003, 15(1), 15-44.

Gaps in private pension coverage for minority workersEdit

  • Chen, Y -P. The role of private pensions in the income of older Americans. In J. A. Turner & D.J. Beller (Eds.), Trends in Pensions. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 1992, 293-418.
  • Chen, Y-P. The widening gap between white and minority pension coverage. The Public Policy and Aging Report, Winter 1997, 10-11.
  • Chen, Y-P., & Leavitt, T. D. Employee preferences as a factor in pension participation by minority workers. Boston, MA: Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston, November 2002.

Work and retirement options for older workersEdit

  • Chen, Y-P. Making assets out of tomorrow's elderly. The Gerontologist. August 1987, 27(4), 410-416. Reprinted as a chapter in R. Morris & S. A. Bass (Eds.), Retirement reconsidered: Economic and social roles for older people. New York: Springer, 1988, 73-88.
  • Chen, Y-P. Achieving a productive aging aociety (Ed. with S. A. Bass & F. G. Caro). Westport, CT: Auburn House, 1993.
  • Chen, Y-P. Gradual retirement in the United States: Macro issues and policies. In L. Delsen & G. Reday-Mulvey (Eds.), Gradual retirement in the OECD countries Hampshire. England: Dartmouth Publishing Company, 1996, 164-176.
  • Chen, Y-P. & Scott, J. C. Phased retirement and reduction of work in later career. In S. Sweet & J. Casey (Eds.), Work and family encyclopedia. Sloan Foundation, 2008.
  • Chen, Y-P., Wadensjo, E., & Tull, A. Potential labor supply and flexible work options for all workers: An exploratory essay. European Papers on the New Welfare, 2009, 11, 49-57.

Special tax treatments and economic status of the agedEdit

  • Chen, Y-P. Income tax exemptions for the aged as a policy instrument. National Tax Journal, December 1963, 325-336.
  • Chen, Y-P. Economic status of the aging. In R. H. Binstock & E. Shanas (Eds.), Handbook of aging and the social sciences (2nd ed.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1985, 641-665.
  • Chen, Y-P. Better options for work and retirement: Some suggestions for improving economic security mechanisms for old-age. In G. L. Maddox & M. P. Lawton (Eds.), Varieties of aging, Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, No. 8. New York: Springer, 1988, 189-216.
  • Chen, Y-P. Income security for the third age: Concepts and sources. Research Dialogues. Teacher Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, 1997, 53, 1-7.
  • Chen, Y-P. Racial disparity in retirement income security. In T. P. Miles (Ed.), Directions for policy reform, full-color aging: facts, goals, and recommendations for America's diverse elders. Washington, DC: Gerontological Society of America, 1999, 21-31.