John Engberg

Photo of John Engberg
Senior Economist
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D., M.S. in economics, University of Wisconsin–Madison; B.A. in economics, Harvard University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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John Engberg (he/him) is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation. He specializes in applied statistical methods and microeconomics. Engberg's research spans the areas of education, crime, health, labor markets, and economic development, with a focus on the evaluation of policies and programs in these areas and their effect on racial disparities. His current work includes an event history study of school discipline and criminal justice involvement, with the goal of explicitly modeling the school-to-prison pipeline. He is also working on a study of the sources of racial disparities in the criminal justice systems of two large U.S. counties, as well as the impact of public defense reform. His current and recent education projects include an examination of the Wallace Foundation's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, an evaluation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Intensive Partnership Sites and an evaluation of restorative practices in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Prior to joining RAND, Engberg was an associate professor of economics at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Engberg received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Previous Positions

Associate Professor of Economics, Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University; Research Director, Carnegie Mellon Census Research Data Center

Recent Projects

  • Evaluation of the New York City Community School Initiative
  • Evaluation of Restorative Practices in Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Racial Disparities in the Allegheny County Criminal Justice System
  • The Impact of a Public Defender at First Appearance
  • Creating Career Ladders for Unemployed and Underemployed Workers in New Orleans

Selected Publications

Baird MD, Engberg J, Opper IM, "Optimal Allocation of Seats in the Presence of Peer Effects: Evidence from a Job Training Program," Journal of Labor Economics (forthcoming)

Johnston WR, Engberg J, Opper IM, Sontag-Padilla L, Xenakis L., Illustrating the Promise of Community Schools: An Assessment of the Impact of the New York City Community Schools Initiative, RAND (RR-3245), 2020

Augustine, CH, Engberg J, Grimm GE, Lee E, Wang EL, Christianson K, and Joseph AA. , Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions? An Evaluation of the Impact of Restorative Practices in a Mid-Sized Urban School District. , RAND (RR-2840), 2018

Hong K, Zimmer R, Engberg J., "How Does Grade Configuration Impact Student Achievement in Elementary and Middle School Grades?" Journal of Urban Economics, 105, 2018

Ray KN, Chari AV, Engberg J, Bertolet M, Mehrotra A. , "Disparities in Time Spent Seeking Medical Care in the United States," JAMA Internal Medicine , 175(12), 2015

Engberg J, Epple D, Imbrogno J, Sieg H, Zimmer R, "Evaluating Education Programs That Have Lotteried Admission and Selective Attrition," Journal of Labor Economics, 32(1), 2013

Engberg J, Gill B, Zamarro G, Zimmer R, "Closing Schools in a Shrinking District: Do Student Outcomes Depend on Which Schools are Closed?" Journal of Urban Economics, (1), 2012

Engberg J, Morral A, "Reducing Substance Use Improves Adolescents’ School Attendance," Addiction, (101), 2006

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Commentary: Education Week


  • Teacher helps students resolve conflict, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

    Restorative Justice Isn't a Panacea, but It Can Promote Better Relationships Among Students

    Restorative practices aren't necessarily a cure-all. But if implemented well, they can contribute to an overall solution. Teaching children to treat one another with respect has the potential to make schools safer and to help kids get along better throughout their lives.

    Oct 21, 2019 The Hechinger Report

  • Students and a counselor sit in a circle, photo by Steve Debenport/Getty Images

    What Two New Studies Reveal About Restorative Justice in Middle School and How It Can Be Done Better

    There are many nuances to the implementation and impact of restorative practices. This suggests that continued experimentation could allow school districts to realize the benefits of instituting these practices and reduce the cost of doing so.

    Apr 17, 2019 The 74 Million

  • Students having discussion

    The Impact of Restorative Practices

    A recent RAND report focuses on estimates of the impact of restorative practices on comprehensive outcome measures for all students. The report defines these measures in seven outcome domains and leads with the impact on suspensions. It estimates the impact on 50 secondary measures and on the seven primary measures for numerous student subgroups defined by race, income, special needs and English language learner status.

    Jan 17, 2019 The RAND Blog

  • Grade school students working at their desks in a classroom

    Pittsburgh Schools Are Making Progress

    Pittsburgh Public Schools can reach new levels of excellence if its leadership boldly and wisely chooses initiatives that will serve all children and if it uses data to decide which initiatives should continue.

    Jul 11, 2016 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • A young student sitting outside in a school corridor

    Rethinking Student Discipline and Zero Tolerance

    Restorative practices are an alternative to zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Rather than mandating prescribed punishments for specific misbehaviors, this more tailored approach aims to empower students.

    Oct 14, 2015 Education Week

  • A teacher talking to a student at his desk

    Flexibility Is Key in Administration's Call for Teacher Equity Plans

    Metrics like teacher experience and licensure reveal little about teachers' impact on student learning. The focus should be on disadvantaged students' access to effective teachers.

    Aug 22, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • A principal talking to a student and his parent in her office

    School Principals Respond to Performance-Based Evaluation System

    It's fair to say the program turned out to be an important step for the district in the context of its overall reform plan considering how important high-quality school leadership is for improving teaching and learning, write Laura Hamilton and John Engberg.

    Aug 15, 2012 The RAND Blog