Pia Pinger is an assistant professor at the University of Bonn and an IZA research fellow. She is closely affiliated with the Institute on Behavior and Inequality. Pinger received her M.A. in Economics from Maastricht University and her PhD in Economics from the University of Mannheim in 2013.

Her main fields of research are education economics, labor economics, health economics, and applied microeconometrics. The common theme of her research program is human capital and the generation of inequality. She has written papers on educational decision-making, early childhood health, personality and economics and on the effect of family income shocks on child education and health outcomes.

working papers

This paper explores inequalities in IQ and economic preferences between children from high and low socio-economic status (SES) families. We document that children from high SES families are more intelligent, patient and altruistic, as well as less risk-seeking. To understand the underlying causes and mechanisms, we propose a framework of how parental investments as well as maternal IQ and economic preferences influence a child’s IQ and preferences. Within this framework, we allow SES to influence both the level of parental time and parenting style investments, as well as the productivity of the investment process. Our results indicate that disparities in the level of parental investments hold substantial importance for SES gaps in economic preferences and, to a lesser extent, IQ. In light of the importance of IQ and preferences for behaviors and outcomes, our findings offer an explanation for social immobility.

A growing literature establishes that paternal unemployment can have lasting negative effects on child education and labor market outcomes. Little is known about the mechanisms behind these effects. This paper uses detailed household data with many variables related to educational decision-making to analyze the channels through which paternal unemployment affects child education outcomes. The findings indicate that paternal unemployment has a considerable negative effect on the probability to complete upper secondary education. A sizeable portion of the overall effect can be explained by a decrease in cognitive performance, academic confidence and monetary resources. In contrast, time preferences and parental non-monetary investment are much less important.

Using a representative sample of the German adult population, this paper investigates the extent to which a survey measure of present bias predicts present-biased choice behavior in incentive-compatible experiments and real-world outcomes related to investments in financial assets and human capital. The results are threefold. First, the survey and experimental measures of present bias are significantly related. Second, the survey measure predicts choices between immediate and delayed monetary payoffs in an incentive-compatible experiment, but not between payoffs at two future points in time. Third, the survey measure of present bias is a good predictor of the propensity to save money, to obtain a university degree, and to maintain a healthy life style. In most specifications, the survey measure tends to be a stronger predictor of real life outcomes than the experimentally elicited measure of present bias.

This paper explores the role of maternal cognitive skills, social skills and physical constitution for child health outcomes at birth and explores which part of the overall maternal endowment effect can be explained by education choices and smoking during pregnancy. The effect of maternal endowments on child health is decomposed it into a choice effect, mediated by maternal prenatal education and smoking choices, and a residual effect, capturing unmodeled investments and biological mechanisms. We estimate causal effects of maternal education and smoking during pregnancy and examine whether women with different endowments experience different returns. Our results indicate that the skill effect on child health is mediated by maternal prenatal choices while the effect of a mother’s physical constitution is not. We find significant heterogeneity in the effects of education and smoking along the distribution of maternal physical constitution, indicating that less physically healthy women should be the primary target of prenatal interventions. Our results suggest that early childhood interventions which boost female cognitive and non-cognitive traits can affect next-generation health outcomes.

We examine which personal characteristics influence (biased) financial decision making. In our experiment, subjects repeatedly invest into two identical, uncorrelated, risky assets and observe previous outcome realizations. Under standard assumptions, every optimal strategy implies choosing the same investment in each period. A minority of our subjects chooses such a strategy. While consistent and inconsistent subjects have the same risk preferences, inconsistent ones choose on average riskier investments. The probability of consistent choices increases in cognitive ability and economic education, and decreases in the internal locus of control (the belief that life is determined by one's own decisions). Providing subjects with additional graphical information on the relationship between investments and outcomes has no influence on the share of consistent subjects.


This study presents descriptive and causal evidence on the role of social environment for the formation of prosociality. In a frst step, we show that socio-economic status (SES) as well as the intensity of mother-child interaction and mothers' prosocial attitudes are systematically related to elementary school children's prosocialty. In a second step, we present evidence on a randomly-assigned variation of the social environment, providing children with a mentor for the duration of one year. Our data include a two-year follow-up and reveal a significant and persistent increase in prosociality in the treatment relative to the control group. Moreover, enriching the social environment bears the potential to close the observed gap in prosociality between low and high SES children. A mediation analysis of the observed treatment effect suggests that prosociality develops in response to stimuli in the form of prosocial role models and intense social interactions.


Applied advanced econometrics


Behavioral economics of education

Topics in intergenerational mobility

Health economics

Introduction to mathematics for economists