An Economist's View

Assistant Professor Mansfield researches labor markets and educational inequality
An Economist's View
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Assistant Professor Mansfield researches labor markets and educational inequality

What attracted you to ILR?

"The economics faculty at ILR and Cornell is excellent and particularly deep in in my areas of interest – the economics of education and labor economics. The research data available through Cornell's Census Research Data Center were also key."

Why are you an economist?

"I thought I was going to study political science. But, a course I took at Harvard as an undergraduate called 'The Economist's View of the World' got me hooked on economics. I've always enjoyed the clarity economics brings. Hypotheses can be written down in a form that is transparent and unambiguous to any trained eye and can be tested empirically."

What can you tell us about your research on labor markets becoming less local in the past 20 years?

"The hypothesis is that the Internet lowers the cost of finding a geographically distant job by making it easier to find opportunities via company web sites and job-matching web sites like, and by facilitating a geographically diverse network of personal contacts via Facebook and other social networking sites."

Can you describe your research on educational inequality?

"My dissertation examined the extent to which the most effective high school teachers are really concentrated at the schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, and whether incentivizing teachers to teach in poorer neighborhoods would be likely to bear fruit. I'm examining whether the best students are becoming increasingly concentrated at the best schools, now that information on school test score performance is being disseminated more widely and the most motivated parents can more easily detect school quality when selecting a neighborhood in which to live."

What is the best part about teaching at ILR?

"In my case, it is that the course I teach, 'Economics of Wages and Employment,' is based around a textbook 'Modern Labor Economics: Theory and Public Policy,' whose authors, Professor Ronald Ehrenberg and Professor Robert Smith, are right across the hall. Nearly every labor economics professor in ILR has taught the course, so there is a wealth of experience and expertise I can tap into whenever I have questions about how to teach the course."

How do you like living in Ithaca?

"The rolling hills, the lushness, the views over the lake – it's gorgeous in the summer. I can walk or bike to work. It’s so peaceful, and the ease of life cannot be beat. It's a great place to get work done. Ithaca is better in every dimension than I had imagined. Winter is a small price to pay for the beauty."