Associate Professor of Economics

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Department of Economics, Newark
360 Dr. Martin Luther King, Blvd.
Hill Hall - 8th floor
Newark, NJ 07102
julia.schwenkenberg [at] rutgers [dot] edu

Curriculum Vitae [PDF]


The Black-White Income Mobility Gap  [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.

Intergenerational Mobility and Dynamic Parental and Societal Investments in Children's Human Capital

The paper analyzes the contributions of parents and society to children's human capital formation and intergenerational mobility. The importance of early childhood investments for adult outcomes has been stressed by researchers in economics as well as in other disciplines and it has become an important issue in the current policy debate.  The paper extends previous work by including both parental and public investments in a dynamic life-cycle human capital investment model. Dynamic complementarities in childhood human capital formation can generate low mobility traps. Complementarities in human capital production imply that a locality that provides a large contribution to children's human capital, especially at the early stages of childhood, generates efficiency gains for parental investments. The structural approach followed in this paper allows the roles of different factors in intergenerational human capital transmission to be analyzed and the consequences of different policy scenarios and assumptions to be assessed using counterfactual simulations. The model is estimated using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and their Child Development Supplement in combination with contextual Census data measuring government public good provision and neighborhood quality. The data contains direct observations on children's outcomes at different stages of childhood and early adulthood as well as on parental investments. The data also allows me to detect whether parents re-locate to gain access to higher public investments. The estimates of the structural model parameters are used to simulate and quantify the effects of different policies on parental investments, child outcomes and intergenerational economic mobility. 


Parental Aspirations and Social Effects 

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.


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]