Named in honor of Nobel Prize winner and former CREF trustee Paul A. Samuelson, this prestigious award is presented by the Institute annually to recognize an outstanding research publication that can help advance Americans’ lifelong financial wellbeing. The winner is chosen by an independent panel of judges – consisting of Institute Fellows and previous award winners – and receives a $10,000 cash prize.
Submissions may be theoretical or empirical in nature, as long as the subject is directly relevant to lifelong financial security. The research must be in the form of a book or article published between June 30, 2014, and June 30, 2016. Submissions need to be postmarked no later than September 11, 2016.
To submit an entry, please fill out this application. (PDF)
On January 4, 2016, the TIAA-CREF Institute announced that Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Soren Leth-Petersen, Torben Heien Nielsen, and Tore Olsen won the 20th annual TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. The five awardees were honored for their paper, “Active vs. Passive Decisions and Crowd-out in Retirement Savings Accounts: Evidence from Denmark.” The study uses an extraordinary set of 41 million data points from residents of Denmark to analyze the impact of policies designed to increase savings and compare those that require active or passive choice by the saver.
The researchers underscore the importance of automatic contribution policies in influencing the behavior of passive savers -- particularly those who are paying the least attention to saving for retirement. The authors believe that these conclusions are applicable in the United States as well due to similarity in behavior between Danish and American savers.
"Many countries around the world are grappling with the challenge of ensuring sufficient retirement savings for current and future generations. We hope our paper advances understanding of this important policy issue, and we are honored to receive the TIAA-CREF Samuelson Award," said the co-authors in a joint statement.
"This outstanding work of research and data analysis will be a unique tool in the United States as experts continue to look at the best ways to help Americans build wealth and secure their financial future,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, head of the TIAA-CREF Institute. “This thorough examination adds to the growing literature around the role of public/private partnerships that can help families save more. Chetty, Friedman, Leth-Petersen, Nielsen, and Olsen exemplify those we seek to honor with the Samuelson Award, now in its 20th year."
"The research is the most granular analysis up to this date on how active and passive choices impact individual savings, with information covering households’ full balance sheet. Data of similar coverage are not available to researchers in the U.S. Though the study is based on data from Denmark, it provides sharp and reliable insights for U.S. policy makers as we increasingly move toward employee-directed defined-contribution plans," said Samuelson Award judge Wei Jiang, the Arthur F. Burns Professor of Free and Competitive Enterprise at Columbia Business School.
The award is named after Nobel Prize winner Paul A. Samuelson in honor of his achievements in the field of economics, as well as for his service as a CREF trustee from 1974 to 1985.
The Samuelson Award winner is selected by a panel of distinguished judges that includes TIAA-CREF Institute fellows and previous award winners. This year's panel consists of:
The TIAA-CREF Institute presented the award in San Francisco on January 3, 2016, during the annual meeting of the Allied Social Science Associations. Click here (PDF) to learn more.
See all Previous Winners
Bringing Thought Leaders Together
The TIAA-CREF Institute hosts conferences and symposia to inform decisions and foster innovation.