Prof. Dr. Debra Hevenstone


Prof. Dr. Debra Hevenstone Dozentin

  • Contact hours Monday
    Wednesday morning
  • Address Berner Fachhochschule
    School of Social Work
    Abteilung Soziale Systeme
    Hallerstrasse 10
    3012 Bern


  • Research: comparative social policy, social insurance design, financing of social services, integration programs

  • Teaching: Data in practice, comparative social policy

  • Data and social services

  • Welfare state design


  • BA, MA, continuing education

  • Comparative Social Policy, Poverty, Economics, Management, Simulation (external)


  • Social service financing/contracts

  • Social insurance design

  • Gender & the labor market

  • Active labor market programs

  • Digitalization & data for practice


  • Debra began her career as a social worker at a Head Start, an early educational program for poor children in the US, sparking an interest in social policy design. Early in her research career she assisted on studies related to education and the 1990s reform of the US welfare or TANF. During her PhD she studied atypical employment. Since then Debra has led projects studying labor market mismatch, unemployment insurance design, the financing of the social services, and the income gap following childbirth. In addition she published a book on the marketization of the social services. Debra has extensive experience in quantitative methods and working with administrative data as well as in simulation.
  • 2017-present Professor Bern University of Applied Sciences
  • 2013-2016 Senior Researcher University of Zurich
  • 2011-2016 Senior Researcher University of Bern
  • 2010 Visiting Researcher MDRC
  • 2009-2011 Research Economist Policy Studies Institute
  • 2007-2009 Visiting Researcher ETH
  • 2008 Visiting Collaborator International Labor Organization
  • 2006-2009 Editorial Assistant Journal of Sociological Methodology
  • 2004-2005 Research/Teaching Assistant University of Michigan
  • 2000-2003 Senior Research Analyst Brookings Institution
  • 1999-2000 Research Assistant University of Chicago
  • 1998-1999 Case Manager Big Brothers Big Sisters of King County
  • 1998-1999 Recruitment and Case Manager Denise Louie Head Start
  • 2003-2008 PhD in Sociology & Public Policy University of Michigan, USA
  • 2006-2008 Certificate in Complex Systems University of Michigan, USA
  • 2000-2001 MA in Social Science University of Chicago, USA
  • 1994-1998 BA in History Bard College, USA
  • 1997 Semester abroad in Social Sciences (BA) Universidad Blas Pascal, Argentina
  • Intensive Spanish, Instituto Cultural Oaxaca,1995
  • Intensive Italian Madre Lingua, Bologna, 2006
  • ICPSR Quantiative Methods Summer School, Geostatistics, 2004
  • Essex Quantitative Methods Summer School, Bayesian Statistics, 2008
  • A1 French Migros Klubschule, 2021
  • Pedagogical Training for Teaching Assistants, University of Michigan, 2006
  • Certificate in Didactics, Bern University of Applied Science, 2018


  • New Public Policy Financing Models, Innovative or Ineffective?“ (Swiss Network for International Studies, 2019-2021) A “social impact bond,” is a way to finance social programs through private investors who can make profits or losses, depending on program outcomes or impacts. SIBs have expanded, in part, based on the argument that they improve services. We are conducting the first empirical study (six providers in four countries) to test whether SIB financing has an impact on the implementation and outcomes for active labor market programs.

  • Family Models and Unemployment: How Intra-Household Economics Moderate the Effects of Unemployment Insurance Design (Swiss National Science Foundation, 2018-2022) Household have slowly shifted from the typical family with a single breadwinner to more diverse forms included two-earner households, single parent households, and singles. At the same time, social insurance has maintained its design without considering how shifts in intra-household economics might change incentives. We examine how maximum benefit durations might have a differing impact on; 1. duration of unemployment, 2. health, and 3. divorce, depending on intrahousehold economics. We take advantage of natural experiments like policy changes and rule discontinuities, using causal inference methods.

  • Reducing Work After Childbirth: A causal estimate of long-run lost income (PI with Ana Fernandes, SNF, 2020-2021) The contribution of part-time work to the motherhood gap is not well-understood, an important gap given that policies incentivizing female labor force participation assume that increasing participation will reduce the motherhood gap. In this project we examine how work choices (current and cumulative effects of part-time work and work pauses) contribute to women’s lifetime income gaps following first childbirth. We use Swiss administrative data from 1988 to 2016 and a quasi-experimental strategy to describe the motherhood gap in income and work choices, consider differences by language region, cohort, and occupation, assess the extent to which the gap is attributable to work choices.

  • Hack4SocialGood (lead Oliver Hümbelin). An event for the Social Services with a research article examining how to manage inclusion in hackathon events.

  • Age-NT National Innovation Network Aging in Society (under Peter Neuenschwander). An investigation into whether occupational pension contributions impact unemployment duration and reemployment wages.



  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

  • European Network for Social Policy Analysis

Language skills and intercultural knowledge

  • English - Native or bilingual proficiency
  • German - Full professional proficiency
  • Spanish - Limited working proficiency
  • French - Elementary proficiency
  • Switzerland
  • United States of America
  • United Kingdom
  • Cuba
  • Argentina