Research interests

I am a Professor of Population and Family Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and working at Columbia Aging Center, Columbia University.

I am a scientist situated in Oslo, Norway and New York, US. My key professional interest lies in the global implications of demographic changes, for health, sustainability, culture and economic productivity.

I believe that foreseeable challenges can be best met with comprehensive interdisciplinary research to allow for better and more long-term policies. This includes insights gained through econometric techniques and data that could be used to identify broader interdependent relations, taking into account insights from psychology, economics, medicine, population studies, epidemiology, and other disciplines such as climate research, political science or genetics. I’m passionate about getting talented people interested in the challenges and opportunities of this type of work; I also really enjoy working with applications and policy development people to understand and try to seek ways of better foreseeing and more effectively developing global capacities for societal challenges.

 

Health and Fertility

I study determinants of fertility behaviour, including how educational changes have affected childbearing and family formation patterns. I am particularly interested in changes in family constellations, rise of childlessness and the causal implications for health, wellbeing and productivity. I am interested in how differential fertility affects outcomes (including childlessness) and which implications current reproductive patterns have at the population level.

 

Ageing

I am interested in studying the relationship between aging and workers productivity with the goal of improving senior workers’ skills is critical to countries with aging populations. I examine the relationships of skills and work performance, emphasizes how population aging is influenced by more than biological age processes, such as stereotypes or images of ageing. I am also interested in preferences to life expectancy and what drives a wish for a long or a shorter life.  Productivity measured against the biological age of a workforce is one aspect of the project; however, this is not a straightforward assessment. Countries with better educated populations, for example, tend to have older people with greater cognitive skill levels than countries whose populations are less well educated – the U.S. and Northern Europe could be effectively younger than India or China (both of which have chronologically younger age structures than Europe), following factors such as differential investments in education. Differential investments in ageing may influence to which extent ageing affects average levels of cognitive functioning at the population level.

 

Culture

I am also interested in culture and demography. In a joint venture with PEW, my research group gathered what may be the largest collection of data on attitudes and beliefs in the world, comprising 2,500 unique censuses and surveys. This is the first database that describes religion by age and sex in a harmonized manner. It was used to religions for 198 countries in the world using demographic projection methods, taking into account gross migration flows to and from all countries in the world, religious conversion and secularlization as well as fertility differences.  I am also interested in the consequences of cultural differences, for instance in terms of reproductive decisions or investments in cognitive functioning.

 

Impact

Skirbekk´s research has received considerable attention in several general science journals (e.g., New Scientist) and media (e.g., the New York Times and The Economist).

As lead author, senior or single author, he has published in the demographic research journals Demography and Population and Development Review and in interdisciplinary journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. He has also written articles in economic, statistics and sociology-oriented journals and books. Skirbekk has co-led European Commission projects and is the recipient of a prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant. In 2017 he received a new 10 year for a centre of excellence investigating fertility and health for which he took the initative to and is co-PI.

 

Background

I graduated in population economics with background from the University of Oslo,  Norway and Adelaide University, Australia. He was awarded a PhD at Rostock University, Germany in 2005. I wrote my PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. I worked as a scientist in Austria and as professor in Germany before moving to Columbia University and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

 

Publications

For a list see here