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 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.
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.
In this first episode of the new series of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson spent some time reflecting back on their previous guests and discuss some of the key messages that each episode brought up. Why is social mobility important? Are grammar schools good for social mobility? Are there upsides to vocational education and why should HE students take care when selecting degrees? Both Matt and Franz highlight particular lessons learned and how they relate to current policy. Franz and Matt then look forward to this new season of Policy Matters and discuss topics such as health, crime, gender and happiness that will be explored in more detail in future episodes.
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.