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, 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 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.