Visiting Scholar Kun Lee: How Demographic Changes Impact Public Pensions and Wealth Inequality

Apr 21, 2024

This semester, the Stone Center hosted visiting scholar Kun Lee, Department of Social Policy and Intervention DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford. He is a quantitative social scientist interested in various policy issues related to public pensions, labor market systems, low fertility, poverty, and wealth inequality. 

Last year, Kun attended the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods at the Institute for Social Research and traveled to Ann Arbor for a personal vacation. It was then that Kun said he decided he wanted to return to explore more of the University of Michigan.

Kun said it was his many stable connections in Ann Arbor that caused him to seek out an academic community to engage with. “I was searching and found the Stone Center for Inequality Dynamics, and thought it was a great fit for my research,” he explained. “CID is a well-known institution for economic and social inequality research. I reached out to the director at that time, and he invited me to a lab meeting last spring. I was able to participate in the discussions and he kindly offered to let me stay here as a visiting scholar.”

During his time here, Kun has focused on working on his thesis project, which investigates new inequalities shaped by pension reforms and policies to extend working lives. He presented his recent paper at one of the CID lab meetings. “It was a great opportunity to receive helpful feedback. CID scholars raised several important questions and provided excellent comments,” he said.

“I have also had lots of help and advice from people here at CID who have helped me shape my next proposal on pension wealth inequality,” Kun said. “The workspace has been particularly helpful from a productivity standpoint – it enables a lot of casual discussions of research.”

This spring is the first time Kun has been in the U.S. for an entire semester. Alongside his main research, he has actively participated in Inequality and Social Demography (ISD) workshops and an Economic Sociology course (SOC515) as an auditor. “I was not as familiar with American Sociology as a discipline, and it’s been really fun learning new things,” he said. “A lot of it is probably basic for most graduate scholars here but for me it has been a really new learning experience, such as reading literature mostly produced in the U.S.,” Kun explained. “It’s been a really good learning experience for me to see how social science research really differs in the U.S. from Europe.”

Kun also attended the Population Association of America (PAA) Annual Meeting this month with CID colleagues. “It was really a fun experience to see the works of CID colleagues altogether and witness their excellence on the national stage.”

Kun said his research focus stems from his personal background. “Korea is a country with one of the fastest aging populations in the world,” he said, “It’s a huge social challenge and has really motivated my study. The social systems in place in Korea aren’t adjusting to the demographic changes.” The government’s inadequate response is what inspired Kun to study social policy.

Kun will be in Ann Arbor through the end of the month. Learn more about his work on his website


More Like This