ECI network member Francesco Agostinelli is joining the Economics Department faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2018. His research areas include applied microeconomics, labor economics, applied econometrics, child development, public economics, and education. His job market paper sheds light on the importance of dynamic equilibrium interdependencies between children’s social interactions and parental investments decisions in explaining developmental differences between different social environments. He received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University. 


Describe your area of study and how it relates to current policy discussions surrounding inequality.

A growing consensus emphasizes the importance of childhood exposure to different environments – parents, peers, neighborhoods and schools – in determining socioeconomic outcomes later in life. However, despite extensive research, the relative role that the various environments play in the developmental process is still an open question. My research aims to answer this question by developing new methods and analyzing and explaining the formation of children’s skills and the observed developmental differences between different social environments.

My research approach is to combine the identification of various treatment effects in the formation of skills, and to use economic models to translate the treatment effect results into predictions for policies that have never been implemented before.


What areas in the study of inequality are most in need of new research?

I believe that much more can be done in understanding the complementarities of different policies in the formation of children’s skills. How do school, neighborhood, and family environments dynamically interact in determining socio-economic inequality for children later in life? Does the return of interventions during early childhood depend on later in life social interactions within neighborhood or school environments? Future work is needed to answer these questions.


What advice do you have for emerging scholars in your field?

I advise emerging scholars to focus on ambitious questions and to be open to an interdisciplinary approach. Indeed, innovative ideas that contribute to the current scientific knowledge and/or that are inspiring for the policy makers are often combining methods in different disciplines/fields: econometrics, economic theory, computational methods, big data analysis, psychometrics, etc. I believe that this is the right way of approaching the complex issue of socio-economic inequality and to highlight possible policy solutions.