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TILDA fondly remembers Dr James P. (Jim) Smith, chairman of our Scientific Advisory Board, who sadly passed away on 4th August 2022.

Dr Smith was an economist at RAND, a non-profit research institute based in Santa Monica, California, from 1972 to 2020 and Director of the Labor and Population studies program from 1977 to 1994. He also held the Distinguished Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic Studies at RAND, shaping a research agenda that focused on domestic labour markets and demographic trends in the US, and economic progress in developing countries.

To facilitate collection of data and to advance our understanding of the challenges and opportunities of ageing, Dr Smith, together with his dear friend and then-Director of NIA, Dr Richard Suzman, put together the scientific and financial support to establish the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). For 30 years (1991–2020), Smith served as the HRS Data Monitoring Committee's chair. He also provided guidance for a number of HRS sister studies around the world. He was a particularly loyal friend and mentor to TILDA since its inception, assisting TILDA’s leadership in establishing the study, and providing guidance over years to many of its postdoctoral researchers and PhD students.

Dr Smith received many honours throughout his esteemed career, including election to the National Academy of Medicine in 2011; the Ulysses Medal from University College Dublin in 2009; the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018; and two National Institutes of Health Merit Awards for his research from 1995–2018. In June 2017, he was presented with an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin by Trinity College Chancellor and former President of Ireland Dr Mary Robinson,, alongside (much to Jim’s enjoyment) rockstar and philanthropist, Bod Geldof.

Presentation of Trinity Honorary Degrees 2017

Dr Smith was born in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Fordham University in 1965 and a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in 1972. He published widely on topics ranging from education to immigration to wealth inequality. More recently, he authored numerous, widely cited studies on health outcomes and economic status worldwide.

Dr Smith was a mentor and friend to many, generously giving of his time to promising junior investigators. As well as providing mentorship, he co-authored a number of papers with young TILDA researchers. As Chairman of TILDA’s Scientific Advisory Board, we will remember Jim for his intellect, quick wit and deep love of Ireland. He will be dearly missed.

The entire TILDA Team wishes to express their heartfelt condolences to the family of Dr Smith: his wife, Sandra Berry, and his daughters, Lauren Smith and Gillian Pet, son-in-law Mitchell Pet and grandchildren Theo and Lydia Pet.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


TILDA Publications
• Ma, Y., Nolan, A. and Smith, J.P., 2018. The value of education to health: Evidence from Ireland. Economics & Human Biology, 31, pp.14-25.

• Ma, Y., Nolan, A. and Smith, J.P., 2020. Free GP care and psychological health: Quasi-experimental evidence from Ireland. Journal of Health Economics, 72, p.102351.