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Dr. Debra Whitman - International Federation on Ageing. Washington, DC, US

Dr. Debra Whitman Dr. Debra Whitman

Chief Public Policy Officer | AARP


Dr. Debra Whitman is an authority on aging issues with extensive experience in policymaking, research and the political process.




As AARP’s chief public policy officer, Debra Whitman, leads policy development, analysis and research, as well as global thought leadership supporting and advancing the interests of individuals age 50-plus and their families. She oversees AARP’s Public Policy Institute, AARP Research, Office of Policy Development and Integration, Thought Leadership, and AARP International.

Dr. Whitman is an authority on aging issues with extensive experience in national policymaking, domestic and international research, and the political process. An economist, she is a strategic thinker whose career has been dedicated to solving problems affecting economic and health security, and other issues related to population aging.

As staff director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, she 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, Dr. Whitman 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 current policies affecting older Americans, as well as the distributional and intergenerational effects of legislative proposals.

From 2001 to 2003, she served as a Brookings LEGIS Fellow to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Earlier in her career, she conducted research on savings and retirement for the Social Security Administration, helping to establish the Retirement Research Consortium and serving as the founding editor of the Perspectives section of the Social Security Bulletin.

Dr. Whitman has been quoted by or appeared in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, Bloomberg, USA Today, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and Politico, among others. She serves on several boards, including the National Advisory Council on Aging for the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the National Coalition on Health Care, and the Pension Rights Center.

Dr. Whitman holds master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in economics, math and Italian from Gonzaga University.

Areas of Expertise (24)

Public Policy

Active Ageing

Elder Abuse


Human Rights



Elder financial exploitation

Financial security

Financial Services

Age-friendly banking

Employment Policy

Family Caregiving

Global aging

Health care financing

Health Policy

Long-term care policy

Long-term services and supports



Prescription drug pricing


Policy Analysis

Retirement Security

Education (3)

Syracuse University, Maxwell School: Ph.D., Economics 1997

Syracuse University, Maxwell School: M.A., Economics 1997

Gonzaga University: B.A., Economics 1992

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (5)

No rest for the graying

Harvard Gazette  online


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  online


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  online


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

AARP  online


“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

AARP  online


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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Featured Articles (5)

Building Lifetime Middle-Class Security

Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute

2013 AARP 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

2007 Over 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

2006 Older 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

2006 The 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

2006 Older 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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