Julia Schwenkenberg

Associate Professor
Rutgers University – Newark 
Department of Economics
360 Dr. Martin Luther King, Blvd.
Newark, NJ 07102
julia.schwenkenberg [at] rutgers [dot] edu

Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

Current Research

Dynamic Interactions in Human Capital Development - Parents, Places and the Persistence of Inequality [PDF coming soon]

Intergenerational mobility prospects differ across locations in the United States (Chetty et al., 2014b; Chetty and Hendren, 2015). This paper builds on Cunha and Heckman (2008) and Cunha et al. (2010) to analyze the contributions of parents and society to children’s human capital formation and intergenerational mobility. The dynamic human capital investment model constructed in this paper provides a framework for public investments to affect mobility through early and late childhood experiences. I add to previous work by incorporating public investments and by expanding the model into adolescence. While the importance of early life investments for child development has been stressed in the literature, evidence from neuroscience also supports a second phase of brain plasticity during adolescence. Complementarities in human capital production might imply poverty traps because low-income parents lack the resources to counter a negative environment. 


Working Papers

The Black-White Income Mobility Gap and Investment in Children's Human Capital  [PDF]

This paper constructs a dynamic model of parental investments in children's human capital to examine potential explanations for the black-white income mobility gap. The model takes into account differences in parental income that are not only driven by unequal income levels but also by income shocks during childhood that are driven by marital state and unemployment transitions. The model is fitted to intergenerational data from the PSID using simulated method of moments. Results show that differences in the incidence and persistence of single motherhood during childhood and flatter age-earnings profiles in adulthood are the most important factors reducing black sons' upward mobility prospects relative to white sons. Eliminating these disparities between the two groups would reverse the mobility gap and allow black and white men's earnings to converge.


Parental Aspirations and Social Effects  [PDF]

The paper analyzes the effect of aspirations on child performance theoretically and empirically. The empirical part investigates how parental aspirations affect children's test scores using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics’ Child Development Supplement. The data show that aspirations matter conditional on parental income and education. I propose a model in which parents motivate their off-spring to perform optimally by setting aspirations. Children face distractions that make effort more costly than it appears to the parents. A distracting peer environment provides the incentive for parents to motivate their children, but if the environment becomes sufficiently deleterious parents are dealing with children who are extremely sensitive to discouragement and parental aspirations lose their effectiveness. A policy implication is that in order to improve the educational performance of disadvantaged youth it is important to reduce the cost of high achievement, including not just school quality but also peer dynamics. Parental motivation alone is not sufficient. Setting high aspirations only works in concert with providing quality education and an effort to change peer attitudes. Some of the most successful Charter schools demonstrate this by focusing not just on high aspirations and school quality but also on creating a high achievement team spirit.

Book Reviews 

Review of Reeves, Richard, Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It. 

H-Socialisms, H-Net Reviews. November, 2017. [LINK] 


Selection into Occupations and the Intergenerational Mobility of Daughters and Sons 

Research in Labor Economics, 2015 forthcoming [PDF]

Occupations and the Evolution of Gender Differences in Intergenerational Socioeconomic Mobility

Economics Letters, 2014 [LINK] 

Income Distribution and the Occupational Choices of Entrepreneurs 

The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 2013 [LINK]

(with James VanderHoff)

Why do Charter Schools Fail? - An Analysis of Charter School Survival in New Jersey 

Contemporary Economic Policy, 2014  [LINK]


(with Douglas Coate)

Survival Function Estimates for Senior Tour Golfers, 

Journal of Sports Economics, 2013 [LINK] 

(with William Easterly and Ariell Reshef) 

The Power of Exports

Policy Research Working Paper Series 5081, The World Bank, 2009 [PDF]