Jenkins is an assistant professor at University of California-Irvine's School of Education, studying early childhood development policy. Her work is multidisciplinary, extending through education, economics, developmental psychology, political science, public health, neuroscience, and sociology. Her research focuses on issues that are amenable to policy intervention, using diverse methods to evaluate program effects and make causal inferences. Jenkins received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Florida in family, youth and community sciences, and her Ph.D. in public policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her master's focus was in community development and poverty reduction.