Vegard Skirbekk is a Norwegian population economist and social scientist specializing in demographic analysis and cohort studies. He is currently senior researcher at Norwegian Institute of Public Health and also Professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University Columbia University.
He is working at the Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University. He was awarded the ERC “Starting Grant” which allowed him to set up his own research team. As project leader of the Age and Cohort Change Project, he has worked on extending the understanding of global variation in skills and values along age, period and cohort-lines. His group has already produced the first worldwide estimates of faith and beliefs (covering 199 countries) in a partnership with the Pew Research Center.
Skirbekk has focused on studying health, productivity, and associated determinants from a multidisciplinary perspective with an emphasis on the role of changing labor market demands, technological and cultural changes as well as variation in the attitudes, beliefs, and competences of new cohorts. From considering productivity as an output variable (e.g., measured as value-added, salary levels), a key contribution of his research has been to highlight the integral role of productivity determinants (such as skills, health, and abilities). This research has helped change the focus of age-variation in productivity from something fixed to an entity that is to a greater extent modifiable. While earlier work typically used chronological age distributions to describe trends over time and variation between countries in how "old" they are, Skirbekk's research as shown that how old a population effectively is should be based on objective measures such as cognitive and physical functioning levels rather than chronological age. Accordingly, countries can be functionally younger even if they are demographically old based on objective measures rather than chronological age structures. Skirbekk's research has been published in a variety of academic journals (including PNAS, Lancet, Science). and has been presented popular science outlets New Scientist). His work has been discussed in media around the world, including The New York Times, the TV news channel CNN, and The Economist.