Graduate Student Profile: Hans Schwarz

Name: Hans Schwarz, Ph.D. student in economics

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Educational background: I obtained a B.A. in economics and applied mathematics at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). I am finishing my Ph.D. in economics at UW–Madison this summer.

What are your research interests? Current research projects?

My field of specialization is labor and demographic economics. I am very interested in understanding the direct and indirect effects of different public policies on various household choices and outcomes related to the labor market, to health, and to migration. In my job market paper, I analyze how the two most prominent family-friendly policies—access to subsidized childcare and entitlement to a job-protected leave—interact with one another and influence parental outcomes related to the labor market after the birth of a child in Germany. One important takeaway of my paper is that an entitlement to a long job-protected leave and a higher availability of subsidized childcare are substitutes.

How did you first connect to your field of research?

I first connected to my field of specialization—labor and demographic economics—while coming up with a research idea for my undergraduate senior thesis. I became fascinated with the concept of agglomeration economies and with the general idea that city size can have a causal effect on individual wages and productivity.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? To CDHA/CDE?

My initial plan when I was applying to grad school was to specialize in topics related to urban and labor economics. The research agenda of many professors in the economics department at UW–Madison centers around these topics, so the decision to apply to UW–Madison was an easy one. In my second-year paper I analyzed the effects of changes in deportation risk on the destination choices of Mexican migrants. I got interested in CDHA and CDE when I realized that many of the talks in the Demography Seminar were related to my research agenda.

Who do you collaborate with at CDHA/CDE?

Yes, I have worked closely with Jason Fletcher, Michal Engelman, and Alberto Palloni.

Are you working on any projects together?

I have been working with Jason Fletcher, Michal Engelman, and Alberto Palloni in a project that quantifies discrepancies between life expectancies at the state level that aggregate individuals by state of residence and life expectancies that aggregate individuals by state of birth. We find evidence that the regional inequality in life expectancy in the U.S. is higher if we measure life expectancies by state of birth. We also perform a decomposition exercise and run counterfactual migration scenarios to illustrate how migration conflates the most commonly used measure of life expectancy by state of residence.

In another project, Jason and I are exploiting an unforeseen disruption in the oxycodone in the U.S. stemming from patent litigation of OxyContin to study the effects of a lower supply of opioids on different health and mortality outcomes at the county level. This exogenous source of disruption in the supply of opioids has not been studied previously in the literature.

Have you published or presented any of this collaborative research?

The work on life expectancy measures is currently at the revise & resubmit stage at Demography. Before the pandemic, we had the opportunity to present this work in some internal seminars and external conferences. We have also presented preliminary results on the opioids project internally at UW–Madison.

What’s one thing you hope people who are exposed to your research will come away with?

A common thread behind some of my research is that individuals, locations, or even public policies do not stand on their own. In the case of my job market paper, the main takeaway is that it is important to really consider the whole set of family-friendly policies in place when trying to analyze the effects of changing one of the policies. In the case of the project about life expectancy measures, one of the most important takeaways is that geographical locations in the U.S. are not islands. They are all connected by a network of migrants. We have to consider this when trying to interpret different measures of life expectancy.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea

In my years in graduate school, I have tried to select research topics, like the effects of family-friendly policies or immigration policies, where I have personally felt that the evidence on the costs and benefits of these policies is still scant. By doing this, my hope is that my findings can eventually help society more broadly by informing the debate on the design of better and more effective public policies.

Has CDHA/CDE impacted your graduate career? If so, how?

I believe that CDHA/CDHA has positively impacted my graduate career. The training that we receive in the economics department is almost entirely focused on specific quantitative techniques. My involvement in CDHA and CDE seminars and training sessions helped me broaden my perspective on other qualitative and quantitative techniques that are also used to analyze social phenomena in my field of study.

Hobbies/other interests:

I love to play board games (my favorite one right now is Terraforming Mars). Coming from Mexico City, I was not used to any type of outdoor activities. Living in Madison really helped me become more physically active and to get involved outdoors. I took up running more seriously during grad school and also had the chance to take swimming and skating lessons. In my free time I also love to read books or articles about almost anything.