The EF Program aspires to provide a comprehensive and rigorous framework for understanding the behavioral changes that are required to achieve social and environmental transformations and what policies and institutional reforms are needed to bring about the required incentives.

Explicit consideration is given to:  

  • The governance of transitional change.
  • The provision of equal life chances
  • The capacity of the economic system to deal with (prevent and adjust to) disruptive changes.
  • The conception of economic development and wellbeing in a finite and interlinked world. 

The program’s research integrates tightly with the natural, environmental, population, and systems science frameworks that IIASA is leading on, thus providing the multi-disciplinary approach needed for an understanding of the transition to sustainable, fair, and resilient economies. The program aims to act as an international hub for high-level external economic expertise as well as expertise from other relevant sciences (e.g., sociology, psychology, environmental and natural sciences, mathematics) to engage in capacity building, and to establish links with leading international research and policy institutions to leverage internal resources. 

Current EF Research Fields

The EF program started on 1 January 2021 and its research agenda is still being developed. While the program’s current research focuses on the two fields below, as well as topical research pertaining to economic aspects of COVID-19, the program is in the process of developing a research agenda for two additional fields on the Governance of Transitions (GT) and Economic Development and Wellbeing in a Finite and Interlinked World (EFW). Aspects of these fields are already present in the research undertaken under the two existing research fields where relevant.

EF_equal_lifechances © (c) Designer491 |

Economics of Equal Life Chances (EELC)

Research undertaken as part of the EELC field focuses on issues related to distributional consequences of development trends and transformative policies, especially as it relates to vulnerable populations.
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EF_disruptive_change © (c) F9photos |

Economics of disruptive change (EDC)

The EDC field embraces economic behaviors under the risk of large disruptive (regime changing) shocks, including climate tipping points, eco-system breakdown, pandemic shocks, and disruptive technological or political changes.
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Michael Kuhn © Photo by M.Silveri | IIASA

Program Director

Michael Kuhn

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar
Economic Frontiers Program
+43(0) 2236 807 371

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Selected Program Publications

Bloom, D.E., Kuhn, M., & Prettner, K. (2022). Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses. Journal of Economic Literature 60 (1) 85-131. 10.1257/jel.20201642.

Sanchez-Romero, M. (2022). Assessing the generational impact of COVID-19 using National Transfer Accounts (NTAs). In: Vienna Yearbook of Population Research 2022. pp. 1-35 Vienna Institute of Demography. ISBN 978-3-7001-8882-7 10.1553/populationyearbook2022.res1.2.

Caulkins, J.P., Grass, D., Feichtinger, G., Hartl, R.F., Kort, P.M., Fürnkranz-Prskawetz, A., Seidl, A., & Wrzaczek, S. (2022). COVID-19 and Optimal Lockdown Strategies: The Effect of New and More Virulent Strains. In: Pandemics: Insurance and Social Protection. Eds. Boado-Penas, M.C., Eisenberg, J., & Şahin‬‬‬, Ş., pp. 163-190 Springer, Cham. ISBN 978-3-030-78334-1 10.1007/978-3-030-78334-1_9.

Chen, S., Kuhn, M., Prettner, K., Bloom, D.E., & Wang, C. (2021). Macro-level efficiency of health expenditure: Estimates for 15 major economies. Social Science and Medicine 287 e114270. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114270.


Concept of quality health care in the city © Nataliia Mysik |

Exploring the macro-level efficiency of health care systems

Measured in terms of economic welfare, including consumption and life expectancy, the share of health care expenditures in most developed economies is too low.


World map overview of virus infected regions.

08 March 2022

Understanding modern infectious diseases and their impacts

Curbing or even containing a pandemic breakout like COVID-19 almost always implies unpalatable choices between lost lives and livelihoods. The authors of a new study just published in the Journal of Economic Literature set out to better understand the impacts and trade-offs policymakers must consider when addressing modern infectious diseases and their macroeconomic repercussions.
Lightbulbs showing different aspects of change and management

04 September 2020

Research Group Leadership

As part of the implementation of the new strategy IIASA has made some further research leadership appointments. The research group leaders in each Program will provide research oversight and management of their respective groups and facilitate the functioning of program directors.



Just Transitions to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions for All (JustTrans4ALL)


29 November 2021

Assessing the cost of a herd immunity approach to COVID-19 in the USA

Options Winter 2021: The herd immunity approach was initially considered as a management option for the COVID-19 pandemic. IIASA researchers looked at what the cost of inaction would have been in the USA.
blurry crowd of people on the street wearing masks

17 June 2021

Interview: Crossing frontiers towards sustainability

Options Magazine, Summer 2021: Michael Kuhn was appointed program director of the newly established IIASA Economic Frontiers Program in January 2021.
Abstract business growth illustration

Highlighted staff

Omkar Patange profile picture

Omkar Patange

Research Scholar

Michael Kuhn profile picture

Michael Kuhn

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar

Michael Freiberger profile picture

Michael Freiberger


Stefan Wrzaczek profile picture

Stefan Wrzaczek

Research Scholar