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Melissa M. Favreault
Senior Fellow
Former employee
I was drawn to Urban because of its rich history of rigorously examining social problems and policy options using innovative methods like distributional models and audit studies. Our distributional analyses attempt to answer ‘what if?’ questions about social programs, including Medicare and Social Security. Our models can help reveal the cumulative effects that differences in early-life opportunities have in shaping treatment in later life. If we can better understand how advantages and disadvantages compound, we may be able to develop stronger policies.

Melissa Favreault is a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where her work focuses on the economic well-being and health status of older Americans and people with disabilities. She studies social insurance and social assistance programs and has written extensively about Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income. She evaluates how well these programs serve Americans today and how various policy changes and ongoing economic and demographic trends could alter outcomes for future generations. Much of her research relies on dynamic microsimulation, distributional models that she develops to highlight how educational and economic advantages shape financial outcomes, disability trajectories, health care needs, and longevity. She has a special interest in the economic risks that people face over their lives and has studied the lifetime costs of health care, including long-term services and supports, and of family caregivers’ foregone earnings and employee benefits.

Favreault has published her research in Demography, Health Affairs, Health Services Research, and the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences and coedited Social Security and the Family: Addressing Unmet Needs in an Underfunded System with Frank Sammartino and C. Eugene Steuerle. She served on the Social Security Advisory Board’s 2011 Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods and now serves on the board of the International Microsimulation Association. She has testified before Congress on Social Security adequacy and how inequality shapes retirement security.

Favreault earned her BA in political science and Russian from Amherst College and her MA and PhD in sociology from Cornell University.

Research Areas
Health and health care
Wealth and financial well-being
Aging and retirement
Immigrants and immigration
Social safety net
Race and equity
Retirement policy
Social determinants of health
Immigrant communities and racial equity
Racial barriers to accessing the safety net
Racial inequities in health