In this episode of Policy Matters, host Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha are joined by Sunčica Vujić, Associate Professor of Applied Econometrics at the University of Antwerp. Sunčica’s research covers a broad range of topics, but a common thread is that it is always very engaged with policy: making an impact in policy areas including crime, health, education and the labour market. Franz and Matt start by asking her about her recent work on the impact of the Brexit referendum on recorded hate-crimes in the UK, and we get a bonus lesson from Franz in translating statistical terms into user-friendly language! Sunčica then discusses her work that shows how policymakers and immigrants themselves can help to improve immigrants’ chances of labour market success, highlighting the startling role of volunteering in reducing labour market discrimination. The discussion concludes with some interesting findings on the impact of education on fertility timing in the UK.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson discuss a non-COVID-19 policy topic that has been prominent in recent months following the recent Black Lives Matter protests: the ethnic inequalities that exist in socio-economic outcomes in the UK. Examining the issue from an academic viewpoint, Franz initially explains how labour economists define discrimination and how theoretically classical economics would expect labour market discrimination on the basis of race or gender to be eliminated by market forces. Matt and Franz go on to discuss how reality clashes with this theory, setting out the extent of contemporary ethnic and gender pay inequalities and some of the issues with analysis that seeks to explain away the large differences in pay between men and women and between white workers and those of other ethnicities. The discussion continues by looking at studies directly highlighting discrimination in hiring in both the UK and the US, before concluding with thoughts on what policymakers could do to address these longstanding inequalities.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson talk to Simon Burgess, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol. With COVID-19 and all the policy responses to it still very much at the forefront of public policy, Franz and Matt begin by asking Simon about the likely impact of school closures on child attainment, how this may affect existing socio-economic inequalities and what policymakers could do to tackle the issue once schools settle back to “normal”. The additional problems of replacing GCSE and A-level exams with teacher assessments are also considered, along with the difficult situation facing graduates finishing university this year. The discussion then moves on to Simon’s research into the impact of students’ effort on their educational outcomes. Simon explains how international football tournaments and school visits from Michelle Obama have provided insights into the huge effect that students’ effort can have on their results – and how policymakers might harness these findings.
In this episode of Policy Matters, Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha join the show from their respective homes as the country continues to adjust to life and work during lockdown. With the global COVID-19 pandemic currently dominating almost all policy areas, Franz and Matt discuss how different countries have tackled the outbreak and what lessons can be drawn from the more successful approaches. They move on to explore the economic impacts that have been seen already, the rationale behind the Government’s unprecedented series of economic policy interventions, and what we can learn from previous recessions about how we might get out of the one we’re now in. They also ponder the likely effects of the crisis on the labour market – in particular, the graduate labour market.
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 discuss the recently published ‘Augar Review’ of Post-18 education and funding; explaining what it is, how it came about, and what the main recommendations are. Franz and Matt consider the impact changes the HE funding system might have on students, in particular whether this would be a good or bad thing for social mobility, and whether or not politics may intervene to prevent these recommendations being implemented in any case. In light of recent public debate around whether social mobility should even be a policy objective, the discussion moves on to considering what social mobility entails and how it relates to the broader concept of social justice.
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 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, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson are joined by Dr George MacKerron, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Sussex. George is an expert in the economics of happiness and wellbeing and the man behind the ‘mappiness’ project. George explains the importance of looking beyond financial measures of individual and national wellbeing and discusses the extent to which the cliché that ‘money can’t buy happiness’ holds true. Franz, Matt and George then discuss the findings from the ‘mappiness’ project which collects real-time data on individual’s self-reported happiness, allowing detailed analysis of the activities that have the greatest impact on how we feel and the way this also depends on where we are and who we’re with. George goes on to explain a number of ways in which public policy can have real impact on individual’s happiness and wellbeing.