For Immediate Release | March 1, 2021


Devin Cowens, (202) 243-7283

Emilie Jackson, a post-doctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, is the recipient of the National Academy of Social Insurance’s 2021 John Heinz Dissertation Award. Jackson’s dissertation, “Essays in Public Economics,” was submitted for her doctorate in Economics at Stanford University. Mark Duggan, Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, nominated Jackson’s dissertation, which examines the interaction of “gig economy” employment and social insurance programs, including Unemployment Insurance and Social Security, as well as the Affordable Care Act. In addition to receiving a $4,000 prize, Jackson will be recognized at a presentation on March 3rd as part of Pathways to Economic Security, a virtual policy conference hosted by the Academy. Jackson joins a prestigious network of nearly 50 previous Heinz Dissertation Award recipients – top scholars in social insurance and closely related fields.

“I’m very grateful to receive this award,” said Jackson. “It is wonderful that the National Academy of Social Insurance is supporting work in this area as I think these are important topics of research. I’ve learned through my research how closely tied social insurance, in particular unemployment insurance and health insurance, are with key economic and health outcomes for individuals, and hope that both my research and that of others in the area will help inform and shape policy down the line.” Jackson will join the faculty of Michigan State University’s Economics department this fall.

Issued annually with support from Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation, the John Heinz Dissertation Award honors the legacy of Senator John Heinz, a founding advisor of the Academy and an advocate for healthcare reform and social insurance. The 2021 Heinz Dissertation Award Selection Committee (see list below) also gave honorable mentions to Jun Li and Samir Mahmoudi.

Jun Li graduated from the University of Michigan’s Health Services Organization and Policy PhD program in 2020, and is now an Assistant Professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Her dissertation, “Medicare Incentives, Payment Reform and Quality in the Home Health Care Sector,” focused on the design of payments and incentives around home health care in the Medicare program. “This recognition is of great significance to me as an early career researcher. It is an honor and a motivation to be acknowledged by this esteemed group of experts,” said Li after being notified of the recognition.

Samir Mahmoudi is finishing his PhD in Economics at Georgia State University. His dissertation, “Essays on Financial and Public Economics,” focused on the ways that Unemployment Insurance, private pensions, and Social Security interact for older workers, along with an essay on the effects of shocks to mortgage markets. “Joining the list of Heinz scholars is a privilege,” Mahmoudi said, when he was notified of the recognition. “To me, it means my research achieved its goal by providing credible empirical results that can inform policy design toward an important social issue. Knowing the legacy of Senator Heinz, I believe the state of retirement income adequacy nowadays would have remained to be a top priority on his policy agenda.”

“The Academy is thrilled to recognize and support the work of three rising scholars with our 2021 Heinz Dissertation Award program,” said William J. Arnone, Chief Executive Officer. “New ways of thinking and fresh scholarship are needed to ensure that our nation’s social insurance programs continue to equitably, efficiently, and effectively meet the needs of all Americans. This is more important than ever,  as our economy and society evolve and people face new kinds of risks.”

About the John Heinz Dissertation Award

The annual John Heinz Dissertation Award recognizes and promotes outstanding doctoral research by new scholars focusing on policy questions in social insurance and related areas, including health, aging, and economic opportunities. These are all areas that were important to Senator John Heinz, who is also remembered as a champion of the elderly. His long list of political activities included: Chairmanship of the Special Committee on Aging; Chairmanship of the Republican Conference Task Force on Job Training and Education; membership in the National Commission on Social Security Reform, and the National Commission on Health Care Reform. Teresa Heinz Kerry, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, said of Senator Heinz: “In the performance of his duties, both as a public servant and as a philanthropist, he was not merely tireless, he was joyfully ferocious, himself the embodiment of radiant living.” Senator Heinz died in a tragic airline accident in 1991.

Nominations are reviewed by a national, multi-disciplinary selection committee chaired by Ezra Golberstein, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Other members of the selection committee are: Jennifer Erkulwater, Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond and winner of the 2003 Heinz Dissertation Award; Monica Galizzi, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell; Lauren Nicholas, Assistant Professor, Departments of Health Policy & Management and Surgery, John Hopkins University and winner of the 2009 Heinz Dissertation Award; Fernando Torres-Gil, Associate Dean and Professor, University of California – Los Angeles, School of Public Policy; and Jeffrey Wenger, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation and faculty fellow at American University. In addition to members of the selection committee, each nomination is reviewed by Members of the National Academy of Social Insurance with particular expertise in the topic of the dissertation.

The Academy will be accepting nominations for the 2022 John Heinz Dissertation Award in the late summer/early autumn of 2021. To obtain application forms and additional information, please visit the Academy’s website:

For more information about the Academy’s upcoming virtual policy conference on Pathways to Economic Security: Bringing All Voices to the Table, March 2-4, 2021, please visit:

Since the National Academy of Social Insurance was founded in 1986, it has provided rigorous inquiry and insights into the functioning of our nation’s social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Comprised of over 1,100 Members – the nation’s top experts in social insurance and related policies and programs – the Academy studies how social insurance can continue to meet the changing needs of American families, employees, and employers, including uninsured or underinsured economic risks. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit, or follow @socialinsurance on Twitter.

See related news: News About NASI

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