Griffin Murphy, Research Assistant, National Academy of Social Insurance
Bethany Cole, Research Assistant, National Academy of Social Insurance

The Academy’s 31st annual policy conference, Regenerating Social Insurance for Millennials and the Millennium, included a diverse, intergenerational mix of health, economic, retirement, and social policy experts, public and private sector professionals, and social entrepreneurs. Our 2019 conference sought to provide a platform for candid intergenerational dialogue to discuss new socio-economic risks and explore ways to improve the current system of social insurance programs.


What are issues facing Millennials and younger generations?

The opening reception of the conference introduced the economic issues facing Millennials, such as housing affordability, caregiving responsibilities, and student loan debt. The panel focused on how the experiences of younger generations might translate into intergenerational policy solutions. The opening panel featured: Jean Accius, Vice President of Long-Term Services & Supports and Livable Communities Group at the AARP Public Policy Institute, Evan Avila, 2018 iOme Challenge Winner, Katie Kirchner, National Director at the Roosevelt Network, and Hans Riemer, Councilmember At-Large in Montgomery County, Maryland. Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United, moderated the panel. The reception concluded with the audience watching a recent Saturday Night Live gameshow skit, “Millennial Millions”, which also highlighted, with great humor, the economic risks and intergenerational dynamics introduced by the opening panel.


What do we know about these new conditions facing Millennials and younger generations to help us design better policy solutions?

Session 1 kicked off the conference with a deeper dive into a range of uninsured and underinsured risks facing Millennials and other generations. Colleen Campbell, Managing Director of Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress, led with a presentation on the distribution of student debt, underscoring the fact that those with debt balances of $10,000 or less are significantly more likely to default on their loans than those with higher balances. Campbell highlighted that the effects of student debt on Millennial home-ownership are small (Campbell Slides). Continuing the conversation on housing, Laurie Goodman, Co-Director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, commented on Millennial trends in homeownership, real incomes vs. real rent in metropolitan areas, and outcomes of Millennial adults who live with their parents for extended periods of time (Goodman Slides). Yulya Truskinovsky, Assistant Professor of Economics at Wayne State University, then presented cutting-edge research on the demographics of caregivers and the economic impact of caregiving, including the effects on earnings around the birth of a first child for men and women (Truskinovsky Slides). Last but not least, Elisabeth Jacobs, Senior Director for Family Economic Security at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, noted that the average unemployment rate is rising for those aged 20-34 since the 1950s–both absolutely and relative to unemployment rates for older workers–before discussing the current state of unemployment insurance (UI), and potential policy solutions (Jacobs Slides). Kathryn Edwards, Associate Economist at RAND Corporation, organized and moderated the session. Audience questions ranged from clarifications on how, for example, student debt is a social insurance issue, to potential impacts of a more robust UI system on young lower-income workers.

 Panelists in Session 2, moderated by Ramsey Alwin, Director of Thought Leadership and Financial Resilience at the Office of Policy, Research, and International Affairs for AARP, engaged in a provocative discussion on the future of work. Panelists included Shelly Steward, Research Manager for the Future of Work Initiative at Aspen Institute, Romina Boccia, Director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at The Heritage Foundation, Jessica Fulton, Director of Economic Policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and Aliya Robinson, Senior Vice President of Retirement and Compensation Policy for the ERISA Industry Committee. Steward began by describing the erosion of the traditional employer-worker relationship, while also commenting on how technological innovations are impacting the workplace. Boccia then described how gig-work, a major departure from the traditional worker contract, might be beneficial to the workforce insofar as it allows for workers to freely choose their hours. Fulton followed with comments on how social insurance might be used to strengthen economic security for vulnerable subsects of our population, ensuring that automation and new work arrangements do not exacerbate existing inequalities. Robinson concluded the panel’s opening remarks by discussing how employers have adapted to attain the high levels of talent that they need to thrive. Following the presentations, Alwin guided debate around whether current programs adequately protect against new workplace risks, how social insurance might adapt to address these risks, and whether the establishment of new programs might be necessary.


Addressing an interrelated set of issues: Paid leave, long-term services and supports, and early child care

Session 3, moderated by Josie Kalipeni, Director of Policy and Federal Affairs at Caring Across Generations, previewed findings from the Academy’s Universal Family Care Study Panel. The Study Panel’s lead policy analyst, Alexandra Bradley, highlighted existing state paid family and medical leave programs, including the variation in their structures, funding sources, and eligibility rules. She closed with comments on potential pathways to create state-based early child care and education programs (Bradley Slides). Ben Veghte, director of the project, followed with an overview of the study panel, policy considerations for long-term service and supports programs, and closed by emphasizing the pillars of a Universal Family Care program (Veghte Slides). The session continued with comments from Kalipeni and two discussants: Henry Claypool of the Community Living Policy Center at UCSF, and Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Co-Executive Director at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. Dutta-Gupta discussed the potential impacts of Universal Family Care for individuals with low-incomes and how caregiving responsibilities affect participation in work. Claypool provided insights into the impact of improving caregiving programs, or implementing Universal Family Care, on the quality of care and well-being for those with disabilities and touched on how the caregiving workforce may need to adapt to provide these integrated caregiving services. Panelists then answered audience questions on state capabilities in developing these programs, portability across state lines, and caregiving workforce development.


Where you stand matters: Differences and similarities between what Millennials and policy experts think about economic conditions  

 In a luncheon discussion led by Cathy Koch, EY Americas Tax Policy Leader, conference participants submitted answers to selected questions from EY’s 2018 survey on “The Millennial Economy.” The EY survey polled a representative sample of Millennials on important economic topics, including questions on home-ownership, marriage, taxes, student loans, American Institutions, and overall outlook on the economy. See the questions we asked, how our audience answered (by clicking on the questions), and EY’s findings here.  


What’s happening with healthcare reform and what does this mean across generations?

After the luncheon, Session 4 discussed the impact of recent health care legislation and current health reform proposals on coverage and economic security from a wide range of perspectives. Renée Landers, Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School, began by discussing provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that have impacted coverage and quality of care for Millennials. Cindy Gillespie, Director of Arkansas Department of Human Services, then touched on the connection between health insurance and labor market incentives by discussing Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirement program. Jane Horvath, Principal at Horvath Health Policy, commented on the effects of prescription drug prices on the health care system, and specifically the effects on the Millennial generation. Deborah Ojeda-Leitner, Science and Technology James Marshall Public Policy Fellow, closed the panel by discussing the Millennial support for Medicare-for-All and how a single-payer system might improve racial/ethnic inequities in access to health care coverage. After presenting, the panelists had a robust discussion led by Walt Dawson, Atlantic Fellow at the Global Brain Health Institute, about tradeoffs in achieving universal health care and insuring a greater number of younger individuals.


Demystifying Social Security for Millennials (and all generations)

Moderator Helaine Olen, writer for the Washington Post, opened Session 5 by introducing the misconception among millennials and younger generations that Social Security will likely not be around when they reach retirement. Kathleen Romig, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, echoed Olen’s concern and provided a history of how this myth arose, and how it continues to be perpetuated. Romig ended on a high note, noting that Social Security is overwhelmingly popular among all ages of voters, even if there is fear over the program’s long-term sustainability (Romig Slides). Rebecca Cokley, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, commented on the myths around Social Security Disability Insurance– that it is easy to enroll in SSDI and that those on SSDI are enjoying a rich lifestyle of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” (Cokley Slides). Meg Bostrom, Co-Founder of Topos Partnership, continued by presenting on effective frameworks that Social Security advocates might use to combat these various myths (Bostrom Slides). Olen then facilitated a comprehensive dialogue among panelists, including discussions on the rise of the stigma and myths regarding SSDI, the widespread lack of awareness of the intergenerational benefits of Social Security, and how to build arguments for supporting the program and implementing policy solutions. Panelists then answered audience questions on current financing, means-testing benefits and the implications for those with disabilities, and generational differences in perceptions on SSDI.


Inequality and (universal basic) income

 The final session of the conference discussed the concept of assuring a base level of income to all Americans. Bill Arnone, CEO of the National Academy of Social Insurance, began by introducing the Academy’s soon to be released concept paper on “Assured Income”. Arnone discussed how traditional social insurance and social assistance programs have functioned to provide an assured income for certain segments of the population, and how they might be adapted to do so for a broader set of beneficiaries. Sam Hammond, Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy at the Niskanen Center, expanded on how an assured income might fit into the current social insurance framework, and economic implications of an assured income program. Building on Hammond’s comments, Taylor Jo Isenberg, Managing Director of the Economic Security Project, discussed the underlying values behind designing an assured income program, and provided an overview of the current assured income landscape. Dorian Warren, President of Center for Community Change, concluded the panel’s remarks by emphasizing the current state of inequality and poverty in America, and how an assured income may work toward the longstanding goal of ending poverty. While Warren did not endorse the idea, he argued that it is, at the very least, worth investigating. During the Q&A session led by H. Luke Shaefer, Associate Professor at the School of Social Work and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, the panelists explored important questions regarding the financing and benefits of an assured income, and the implications for current safety net programs.


The end of this conference does not represent the end of the conversation on strengthening economic security across generations. The Academy’s work will continue to research areas of economic insecurity for Millennials and younger workers, and explore intergenerational policy solutions to improve the system of social insurance programs for the 21st century.


For more information, please contact Bill Arnone, Chief Executive Officer, at


Posted on: February 22, 2019


One Comment

  1. Lynn Etheredge February 23, 2019 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    The future of Millennials and
    The future of Millennials and younger workers – and current and future social insurance programs – will be brighter if economic growth can be accelerated, The Senate Rubio committee recently released a report on Made In China 2025 and the Future of American Industry that proposes it is time for new national industrial policies.
    There appears to be an emerging consensus for such strategies (David Brooks NYT 2/15)

    A key industrial sector where the US leads the world is bio-tech and bio-medicine, with effective policies and strong bi-partisan support. There are lessons from the past decade, with $ tens of billion public and private investments, that may be useful to consider in shaping policies for other sectors.

    For colleagues who may be interested in industrial policy conversations, I’ve posted an overview working paper at: There is also a working paper on how Made In China 2025 makes use of similar strategies:'s_New_Rapid-Learning_Economics_A_Wake-up_Call

Leave A Comment

How can we help you?

Media Inquiries
Sponsorship Opportunities

Stay up-to-date on the latest research & policy updates.

Subscribe to our newsletter