Barbara Boelmann



I am a  postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cologne. I am a YEP Fellow of ECONtribute and a member of C-SEB and the Collaborative Research Center Transregio 224

I am an applied labour economicst and I study structural factors underlying inequalities on the labour market with a focus on gender inequalities.

I have obtained my PhD from  University College London and CReAM in 2022. I hold an MSc in Economics and a BA in Economics and Chinese Studies, both from the Ruhr-University of Bochum. You can find my full CV here.

You can contact me under or reach out to me on Twitter @BarbaraBoelmann.



Working papers

Women’s Missing Mobility and Higher Education: Evidence from Germany’s University Expansion

This papers shows that the local availability of universities played an important part in the catch-up of women in higher education that has been documented for developed countries in the latter half of the 20th century. Women’s low regional mobility meant that access to higher education was severely restricted for many young women in the 1950ies and 1960ies. This restriction was lifted as many countries heavily expanded their tertiary education sector and started to build universities in subsequent decades. This paper uses the expansion of universities in Germany in the 1960ies and 1970ies as a case study to under- stand how women’s mobility and education decisions interact. I first document women’s low mobility in post-war Germany along with their low educational attainment. Second, I exploit that the university expansion reform exoge- nously shifted women’s need to move to obtain higher education. Comparing regions which experienced a university opening within 30 km to those where no university was opened in a difference-in-differences (DiD) strategy, I show that women benefited from a close-by university in particular. Looking at university graduates’ mobility patterns, I see that young men decreased their mobility after the expansion, while young women did not adjust their mobility. This indicates that both men and women have a preference for attending a local university, but this constraint was only binding for women before the establishment of new universities.

Draft available upon request.

Wind of Change? Cultural Determinants of Maternal Labor Supply (joint with Anna Raute und Uta Schönberg)  

R&R at American Economic Journal: Applied Economics

Abstract: Does the culture in which a woman grows up influence her labor market decisions once she has had a child? And to what extent can exposure to a different cultural group in adulthood shape maternal labor supply? To address these questions, we exploit the setting of the German reunification. A state socialist country, East Germany strongly encouraged mothers to participate in the labor market full-time, whereas West Germany propagated a more traditional male breadwinner-model. After reunification, these two cultures were suddenly thrown together, with consequent increased social interactions between East and West Germans through migration and commuting. Zooming in on East and West Germans who migrated across the former inner-German border, we document a strong asymmetry in the persistence of the culture in which women were raised. Whereas East German female migrants return to work earlier and work longer hours than their West German colleagues even after long exposure to the more traditional West German culture, West German migrants adjust their post-birth labor supply behavior nearly entirely to that of their East German colleagues. West German return migrants continue to be influenced by the more gender egalitarian East German norm even after their return to the West, pointing towards the importance of learning from peers. Finally, taking advantage of differential inflows of East German migrants across West German workplaces in the aftermath of reunification, we show that even a partial exposure to East German colleagues induces “native” West German mothers to accelerate their return to work after childbirth, suggesting that migration might be a catalyst for cultural change.

Working paper available here. Short video for general interest audience here (German only).
Selected media coverage: New York TimesIndependentThe ConversationLa RepubblicaZeitSüddeutsche ZeitungFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung –  HandelsblattWELT – Tagesspiegel (Print) – MDR –  ntvQMUL NewsUCL News

The Effect of Ethnic Clustering on Migrant Integration in Germany (joint with Sandra Schaffner, pre-PhD)

Abstract: Since ethnic clustering is common in Germany, a better understanding of its effects on the integration of immigrants could be important for integration policies, especially in the light of rising immigration and a skilled worker shortage. Yet, both economic theory and empirical research for other countries cannot give a clear-cut answer to whether clustering is beneficial or detrimental for immigrants' integration. In this paper, the effect of residential clustering on the labour market outcome of first- generation immigrants in Germany is analysed empirically. It, thus, contributes to the literature by extending it to Germany on which hardly any research has been conducted. For the analysis, two measures for labour market integration are used: the employment probability and wage levels. In order to control for the endogeneity of the location decision, a two-step strategy is used, combining a control function and an instrumental variable (IV) approach. The results suggest a negative enclave effect on both employment and wages, that is even larger when sorting is taken into account.

Working paper available here.

Work in progress

Determinants of Women's Franchise (joint with Carola Stapper)

To grant or not to grant? Lessons in Social Mobility from German Student Finance (joint with Carl Gergs, Frauke Peter and Heike Spangenberg)

Labor Demand and Workforce Diversity: Evidence from Two Natural Experiments (joint with Anna Bindler, Lena Janys and Luisa Santiago Wolf)


I consider public outreach activities very important. I am the organiser of ECONtributes's Reinhard Selten Equal Opportunity Talk Series (ReStart) which aims at communicating to the public current research findings on equal opportunitiy issues. Several times a year, renowned reserachers present their research findings in an accessible way, followed by a discussion with participants. To find out more about upcoming events, visit ECONtribute's homepage.

I also work hard to bring my research findings to the attention of a wider audience. For example, I was invited by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung to discuss my research on cultural determinants of mothers' labour supply and the implications for East and West Germany with German politicians. You can find details on the event here.  I have also presented this work at  the Science Slam of the clusters of excellence at University of Bonn (video). In addition, I have spoken about the role of gender norms for inequality on the labour market and the career costs of children for mothers in ECONtribute's podcast (German only).



I am passionate about teaching (applied) economics to the next generation. I have two main goals that guide my teaching: First, I aim to show students a varity of releveant issues that economists think about and contribute to, focussing on question related to inequality. Second, from an ungeraduate level, I teach based on research papers, enabling students to access the (empirical) literature themselves. In 2019, I have won an award for my MSc teaching at UCL.

Giving students a diverse and research-oriented experience during their courses is important to me. Melissa Spencer and I have therefore initiated the "Gender Economics Teaching Network" where we can share experiences and, most importantly, organise guest lectures about our own research for students at other universities. If you are teaching gender economics and interested in joing, please email me.

At the University of Cologne, I teach 

Please refer to the relevant ILIAS courses for more details.

I supervise theses on both the undergraduate and graduate level. If you are interested in writing your dissertation with me, please contact me via email.