Amy Ellen Schwartz
Professor of Public Policy Education and Economics
"There is persuasive evidence that shows that immigrant kids [in New York City public schools] do better than native born kids. We want to know why this is so."
Amy Ellen Schwartz has a joint appointment in Public Policy Education and Economics in NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and Steinhardt. The joint appointment reflects Schwartz’s many years at Wagner and her more recent collaborations at Steinhardt, especially her teaching in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions.
Schwartz became interested in the economics of education policy in a rather roundabout way. “I went to college to study ecology, but in doing so I discovered that I was good at economics and interested in questions of policy.”
Policy that dealt with education began to seem compelling to her. As a New Yorker born and bred, she considered herself a successful product of the city’s public school system. “Also, my parents were founding members of the United Federation of Teachers, so I’ve always had a sense of the system and its players.” She switched her studies from ecology to economics, and received her PhD at Columbia University. After teaching economics at Tufts University for several years, she came to NYU.
Schwartz also leads the bimonthly Seminar in Education and Social Policy, sponsored by the NYU Institute for Education and Social Policy, a joint Wagner-Steinhardt research institute, which Schwartz directs. The Seminar discusses research on issues relating broadly to the areas of education and social policy. She values the seminar, she says, because “it brings together the NYU community of scholars and students who are interested in these topics.” It also provides a forum for exchanging ideas for research, which often develop into proposals for external grants and funding.
Schwartz is currently involved in a collaboration with Leanna Stiefel, a jointly appointed Professor of Economics and Education at the Wagner School and at Steinhardt. The project, funded by the Spencer Foundation, looks at immigrant children in New York City’s public schools. “There is persuasive evidence that shows immigrant kids doing better than native born kids. We want to know why this is, and if it continues to be true the longer immigrant kids stay in this country. It’s exciting work, interesting and important, but also doable because we’re in a city where there are so many immigrant students.”
As Schwartz begins to initiate projects such as this in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions, she hopes to involve more Steinhardt students in her research. “I like doctoral students to work on every one of my projects. They are being trained to gather data and turn them into something that’s useful for research. That’s the trick for all researchers – and it’s a trick worth learning at the doctoral level.” Schwartz also hopes to introduce the department, in a more formal way, to her unique perspective. “Because of my time at Wagner, I see things through a slightly different lens. I look forward to bringing that perspective, along with different techniques, to Steinhardt.”