Pia Pinger is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the Universität Bonn. A member of our Early Childhood Interventions network, she is also an IZA Research Fellow. Pinger’s main areas of research are human capital formation and applied microeconometrics. She is a Co-organizer of HCEO’s Summer School on Socioeconomic Inequality Bonn, which takes place August 29 through September 2.


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

As socioeconomic inequality grows at the same time that returns on education rise, the acquisition of human capital becomes ever more important. I study ways in which inequalities in parental socioeconomic status and contextual circumstances translate into differences in skills, health, preferences, and long-run economic outcomes of children. A large part of my research relates to the behavioral aspects of how individuals make education decisions.   


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

To make informed policy decisions we need to gain a much better understanding of how equality of opportunity can be achieved. Research on child development is on the rise, and we have learned a lot in recent years. Yet there are many open questions regarding the human capital investment decisions of parents and children. Do family income shocks during critical decision periods have long-term effects on the next generation? Why do many individuals with lower socioeconomic status backgrounds drop out of school, although most will regret their decision afterwards? What returns do parents and children expect from additional education? Are there scalable intervention programs that can help improve human capital investment decisions?  These and many more questions haven’t yet been fully answered. There is a lot of potential for important high-quality research. 


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

Choose to work on questions that you care deeply about. Don’t just do research to publish well (although publishing is vital), but focus on things you find both intellectually stimulating and important. Read a lot, meet exciting people, discuss your ideas, and enjoy what you are doing!