In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha talk to Sam Friedman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and a member of the Social Mobility Commission. Sam explains his recent research highlighting how those from working class backgrounds find themselves earning less than colleagues from more privileged families, even when they have the same qualifications and work in the same elite professions. Going beyond the numbers to understand this ‘class pay gap’, Sam describes the numerous interviews he undertook with elite professionals from different backgrounds and what this revealed about the hidden mechanisms that operate, often rewarding privilege rather than merit or ability. The discussion then moves on to the dominance of private schools – and especially a particular group of private schools – in the elite strata of society and considers the sorts of policies that might help to make Britain a more meritocratic society.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson talk to Sarah Brown, Professor of Economics at the University of Sheffield and an independent commissioner for the Low Pay Commission. Franz and Matt highlight the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the national minimum wage and discuss with Sarah how the policy has worked out for the UK. The role and importance of the Low Pay Commission in informing minimum wage policy is explored and questions are asked as to what the future may hold for the minimum wage. The discussion then moves to the topic of household finances and how people with different personality traits make financial decisions and the implications this may have for policy.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson talk to Rachel Aldred, Reader in Transport at the University of Westminster. Franz and Matt discuss with Rachel the benefits and risks of cycling in the UK and touch on subjects such as cultural differences in cycling behaviour across countries, what we might learn from such comparisons and how risky walking and cycling are in the UK. Rachel outlines early results from an evaluation of the ‘Mini-Hollands’ scheme that seeks to emulate planning and infrastructure development from the Netherlands in three outer London boroughs. The discussion then moves to the measurement of traffic injuries and to what extent concerns about pollution might influence cycling behaviour. Finally, Rachel contextualises recent government policy and how future government policy might be shaped around cycling.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha talk to Carol Propper, Professor of Economics at Imperial College London and a former Senior Economic Advisor to the NHS Executive on Regulation of the NHS Internal Market. We might not immediately think of economists when we think about healthcare, but Carol explains how economists can help with the design of a healthcare system that will produce the health outcomes that we would all want, taking into account the incentives faced by the various people and institutions involved. Matt, Franz and Carol discuss socio-economic inequalities in health and their relationship with healthcare before Carol gives us her prescription for the NHS and looks ahead to how future research might help improve healthcare in this country.
Historically, economics as a discipline has been dominated by men – and despite increases in the proportion of female lecturers and professors in recent years, women remain under-represented. In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha talk to Sarah Smith, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol and head of the Royal Economics Society’s Women’s Committee. They discuss the need to change girls’ perceptions of what economists actually do, and to encourage more young women to take economics at A-level and at University. Sarah explains how within academia there remain barriers to career progression for women and that raising awareness of this amongst the male-dominated hierarchies is an important step in helping to level the playing field. The discussion closes thinking about what economics can learn from other disciplines that have made greater strides towards gender equality.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson talk to Alex Bryson, Professor of Quantitative Social Science at University College London. Alex is one of the UK’s leading figures in sports economics and he firstly explains what sports economics is and how it can be used to draw policy inferences in other more familiar areas of economics. Franz, Matt and Alex then discuss the findings of Alex’s paper looking at whether people discriminate against black players when picking their ‘fantasty football’ team and what this might tell us about labour market discrimination. How football referees’ performances are impacted by their employment contract and how having 50,000 vocal fans scrutinising their decisions affects their decision-making are other topics under discussion. Finally, Alex explains how data from baseball can help us understand individual effort choices when working as part of a team.
This episode of Policy Matters is a cross-over show in which hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson are joined by the host of Economist Questions, Peter Urwin. As Peter is currently leading a large research project looking at young people’s pathways through education, Franz and Matt ask him about his own journey and how that affected his social mobility. They go on to discuss the problems that the Further Education system faces in providing both second chances for those who don’t achieve well at age 16 as well as higher-level training for those more suited to the vocational route. All this in the context of dwindling education budgets in general, and a lack of policy focus on the Further Education system.
In this episode of Policy Matters, host Matt Dickson talks to Laura van der Erve from the Institute for Fiscal Studies about the merits of doing a university degree, and what recent evidence suggests are the relative labour market returns to degrees in different subjects at different institutions. With almost 50% of young people in England going on to Higher Education, and with tuition fees of £9,250 for most courses, it has never been more important to understand the impact on earnings of studying different subjects and at different HE institutions. Laura describes recent research from the IFS looking at graduate outcomes and explains some of the difficulties in pinning down the impact of a particular course on later earnings and employment. They then discuss social gradients in attending university and the extent to which inequalities have been impacted by changes in tuition fees. Finally, talk turns to thinking about the sorts of things students need to know in advance in order to make an informed decision about where to apply and what to study, how the government can help with this, and the limits of information provision as a policy.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson are joined by Professor Paul Gregg from the University of Bath to consider the prospects for today’s young people leaving education and entering the labour market. We hear a lot in the news about the job market challenges facing young people; and yet employment rates are at record levels, recent generations are the most educated ever with more and more people going to University and then enjoying a graduate wage premium – so what’s the problem? Paul provides an insight into how the economy has been changing over the last decade or so, the ways in which the recession following the 2007/8 financial crisis was unlike anything we’ve had before, and how young people have suffered the most. Matt and Franz then discuss with Paul the ways in which the challenges for policy are different now to what’s often been the case in the past, and consider what government policy can do to improve the prospects for young people today.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson are joined by Dr Lindsey Macmillan from University College London to discuss the role of education in social mobility. Issues relating to education are never far from the policy agenda or the headlines – whether it is early years education, university tuition fees or the possible return of grammar schools. But what does academic research tell us about the role of education at each age and stage in improving life-chances of children from poorer backgrounds, and what does this mean for policy? Franz and Matt discuss these issues with Lindsey; and also consider the limits as to what education policy can achieve, given the way that the UK labour market – and wider society – is structured.