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 Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson talk to ... Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha! It’s been a while since we talked about the policy-relevant research that we are currently pursuing both together and individually, so we take some time to find out what is floating our research boats. Matt talks about a couple of research projects looking at the impact of education on labour market and health outcomes – using different “natural experiments” to try to identify how much education actually affects these things. Franz then tells us about his recent research project on the geography of social mobility in the UK, exploring the nuanced story of social mobility differences between, and within, regions. The discussion concludes with consideration of recent developments in data availability and how that can benefit researchers and policymakers going forward.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson talk to Gemma Tetlow, Chief Economist at the Institute for Government. Gemma was previously the economics correspondent at the Financial Times and also worked for many years as an academic economist and so has broad experience of economists’ work from a variety of angles. Firstly, Gemma discusses the work of the Institute, and how the demands that Brexit has placed on the government has hindered domestic policymaking. Given her experience as both a researcher and economic journalist, Franz and Matt go on to discuss with Gemma how economics is reported in the media, the difficulty of explaining the complexities of the economy in ‘public-friendly’ ways and what economists can learn in this area from other sciences. The discussion then turns to thinking about how economists interact with policymakers and how this has evolved over time, before Gemma talks about the policies that she would like to see considered in public and policy debate, whoever is developing the domestic policy agenda in the post-Brexit UK.
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 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.
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 episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson are joined by Steve Machin, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, and a leading expert in the economics of crime. We might not initially think that economists have much to say on crime and policing, but Steve explains how the choice to commit crime can be thought of like any other choice that involves weighing up the costs and benefits. As such, when the prices of goods on the black market change or the chances of being caught change there is a response in crime rates. Similarly, when individuals are made to stay in school longer, this leads to a reduction in crime as those with more education can earn more in the labour market and so crime is less attractive. Steve goes on to highlight a number of ways in which the economics of crime research has led to changes in policy that have had positive results for society.
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.