Ronald Demos Lee is Professor of Demography and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds the Edward G. and Nancy S. Jordan Endowed Chair in Economics and is the Director of the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging.
Ron received his B.A. in philosophy from Reed College, after which he spent two years in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia teaching high school math, physics and history. He received his M.A. in demography from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard. He spent a postdoctoral year at the National institute of Demographic Studies (INED) in Paris. Ron’s first faculty position was in in the Economics Department and Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, where he was on the faculty from 1971 to 1979. He played a major role in building Michigan’s economic demography training program, and served as PI of a NICHD training grant in economic demography.
Ron moved to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1979, taking a position as Professor of Economics and as a founding member of the new Graduate Group in Demography. He has been instrumental in building Berkeley’s demography program (now the Department of Demography), serving as department chair and in many other leadership roles. He has been director of Berkeley’s Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging (CEDA) since its creation in 1994.
Ron has been an active and dedicated member of PAA. He was elected PAA president, delivering a memorable presidential address on “Population Dynamics of Humans and Other Animals” in 1987. In 1983 he received the PAA’s Mindel C. Sheps Award for research in mathematical demography, and in 1999 he received the PAA’s Irene Taeuber Award for outstanding achievement in demographic research. He has served on numerous PAA committees. Ron has also been an active member of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), and was elected to the IUSSP council in 1998.
Ron has received a long list of distinctions in recognition of his contributions to the field. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) program in aging and a Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). He has received numerous research grants from the National Institute on Aging including continuous support from NIA MERIT awards from 1994 to 2013. His research has also been supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Social Security Administration.
Ron has made seminal contributions to research in many areas in economics and demography, including the links between population and the economy in preindustrial economies, dynamics of population cycles, stochastic population forecasting, and the economics of intergenerational transfers and population aging. Ron is co-director with Andrew Mason of the National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project. This project estimates the aggregate flows of income from one age group to another cross-sectionally through public and private transfers, and across age and time through assets, for nations around the world. These data then form the basis for comparative international studies of transfer systems, how they differ across levels of economic development, cultures, institutions and government policy environments, and how they are stressed by changing population age distributions across the demographic transition and as projected into the future. Research teams in more than forty countries on six continents are currently constructing accounts and using the accounts to analyze the economic implications of population aging.
Ron has been a dedicated teacher and advisor throughout his career. He has taught and inspired a long list of predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees at Michigan and Berkeley, and served as PI of NIH training grants at both universities. He has co-authored papers with many of these trainees, and has served as the ultimate role model of how to be a supportive advisor.
Ron and his wife, Melissa Nelken, have three daughters. Sam Preston once called him the best tennis player in PAA.