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Dr. Debra Whitman

Chief Public Policy Officer

Debra Whitman, PhD, is an economist and expert on aging issues with extensive experience in national policymaking and global research.

Languages : English


Debra Whitman, PhD, is an economist and expert on aging issues. As Chief Public Policy Officer for AARP, she and her teams develop global policy and research insights and solutions that help communities, lawmakers, and the private sector improve our lives as we age.Debra has extensive experience in national policymaking and domestic and international research. As an economist, she is a strategic thinker whose life’s work has been devoted to solving problems and improving the systems that impact us all as we age.As staff director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Debra worked across the aisle to increase retirement security, lower the cost of health care, protect vulnerable seniors, safeguard consumers, make the pharmaceutical industry more transparent, and improve our nation’s long term care system.Before that, she worked for the Congressional Research Service as a specialist in the economics of aging. She provided members of Congress and their staff with research and advice, and authored analytical reports on the economic impacts of policies affecting older Americans.From 2001 to 2003, Debra served as a Brookings LEGIS Fellow to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, working as a health policy adviser to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Earlier in her career, she conducted research on savings and retirement for the Social Security Administration. Debra is a writer and public speaker, a mom, and an advocate for those whose voices need to be heard. Follow her at @policydeb.


Let’s Talk About Ageism

July 21, 2021

Debra Whitman, executive vice president and chief public policy officer at AARP, agrees. “Ageism is sneaky. It will affect every single one of us, but we also put it on ourselves,” she says. “We say negative things about aging all the time. So it’s really part of our culture and our mindset—and that’s damaging.” In other words, we reinforce the very stereotypes that hurt us even after we become part of the affected group.

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‘There is more work to be done:’ Rep. Kevin Brady on the economic recovery
Yahoo! Finance

December 10, 2020

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Shai Akabas, the Director of Economic Policy, BPC, speak with Rep. Kevin Brady, Rob Falzon, Vice Chair, Prudential Financial, and Debra Whitman, Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer at AARP.

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Employers Called on to Retain Older Workers

June 24, 2020

Debra Whitman, executive vice president at AARP, said, “It is important that when we say ‘age-friendly,’ we mean all age friendly—that is meeting the diversity of all of your employees and their needs. Women have children and take maternity leave. Many people are caregivers for parents or relatives. Employers need to think more broadly about the care needs of workers in an inclusive environment.”

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No rest for the graying
Harvard Gazette

February 12, 2016

Berkman was joined at the event — “The Aging Workforce: Challenges and Benefits for the Public’s Health” — by Francine Grodstein, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Debra Whitman, chief public policy officer for AARP; and Christina Matz-Costa, a senior research associate at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. Chris Arnold of National Public Radio moderated the discussion...

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AARP: What's wrong with Social Security COLAs
USA Today

October 15, 2015

For decades, benefits rose only when Congress enacted special legislation. It wasn't until 1975 that automatic annual cost-of-living allowances (COLAs) kicked in. AARP Chief Public Policy Officer Debra Whitman answers some frequently asked questions on how they work.

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For Widows, Social Security System Can Provide Rude Shocks
The New York Times

October 02, 2015

Even though the amount is not large, it is an indispensable source of income for most widows. Without Social Security, said Debra B. Whitman, AARP’s chief policy officer, “data show that at age 85, some 46 percent of widows would be living in poverty.”

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Generic Drug Prices Dropping More Slowly According to AARP Report

May 28, 2015

“Declining generic drug prices have helped many Americans’ pocketbooks, particularly older adults on fixed incomes,” said Debra Whitman, PhD, AARP Executive Vice President for Policy. “Unfortunately, recent trends indicate that we may not be able to rely on these savings forever.”...

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Statement by Debra Whitman, AARP Executive Vice President on IOM Cognitive Aging Research Report

April 14, 2015

Debra Whitman, AARP’s Chief Public Policy Officer, said the research is welcome news for AARP’s 38 million members who say that staying mentally sharp is one of their top health concerns. In a recent AARP survey, 93%of respondents noted that brain health was very or extremely important, but few knew the ways that they could support their brain health...

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Women caregivers power America’s economy. It’s time to support them
Fast Company

2021With little outside support, millions of women provide essential care for their kids, aging spouses, parents, and other adults with disabilities. But the COVID-19 pandemic highlights that their cost-free service is attached to a big price tag, especially for women and the health of the economy ...

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The Women’s Wealth Gap Glares Harsher than Ever, So It’s Time to Close It
Next City

2021The pandemic has crystalized—in the glaring sort of way—our country’s contradictions. One of them: The dueling demands we put on women to care for others and work without relief, all the while denied fair wages, benefits and other opportunities to achieve economic well-being for themselves and their families ...

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Singapore: An Island Nation with a Big Vision for Aging
AARP International

2020"..what Singapore lacks in space it makes up in vision — an expansive vision for inclusion and proper support that considers its whole population, even as the nation navigates its own changing demographic and economic realities." ...

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COVID-19 has laid bare the cracks in long-term care. Here's how to fix them
World Economic Forum

2020As early as February, it was clear that individuals at highest risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19 included people over 60 and those with underlying conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease ...

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Building Lifetime Middle-Class Security
Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute

2013AARP hears daily from members across the nation who are struggling to maintain a toehold on the basics of middle-class security—a job, a modest pension, an affordable home, health insurance. In response to our members' concerns and to address the implications of ...

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Retirement savings: how much will workers have when they retire?
Policy Archive

2007Over the past 25 years, an important change has occurred in the structure of employer-sponsored retirement plans in the private sector. Although the percentage of the workforce who participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans has remained ...

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Topics in aging: Income and poverty among older Americans in 2005
Cornell University

2006Older Americans are an economically diverse group. In 2005, the median income of individuals age 65 and older was $15,523, but incomes varied widely around this average. Twenty-seven percent of Americans 65 or older had incomes of less than ...

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Topics in aging: Income of Americans age 65 and older, 1969 to 2004
Policy Archive

2006The aging of the American population and the retirement of the baby boom generation will place financial strains on Social Security, public and private pensions, and on retirees' personal savings. Since the 1960s, birth rates have fallen and average life ...

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Income and poverty among older Americans
Benefits Quarterly

2006Older Americans are an economically diverse group. This article describes the sources and amounts of income received by the 35.2 million Americans aged 65 and older living in the community in 2004, as reported in the March 2005 Current Population Survey ...

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Area of Expertise

Active Ageing

Age-friendly banking


Elder Abuse

Elder financial exploitation

Employment Policy

Family Caregiving

Financial Services

Financial security


Global aging

Health Policy

Health care financing

Human Rights

Long-term care policy

Long-term services and supports



Policy Analysis

Prescription drug pricing


Public Policy


Retirement Security


Public Policy



Syracuse University, Maxwell School : Economics

Syracuse University, Maxwell School : Economics

Gonzaga University : Economics

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