In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha talk to Neil Davies, Senior Research Fellow at the MRC Integrated Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol. Neil is a statistical epidemiologist, so Franz and Matt begin by finding out what life has been like for an epidemiologist since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Neil then explains his recent work showing how some of the myriad statistics we’re seeing relating to coronavirus suffer from their survey design, which can generate misleading apparent relationships between COVID-19 risk and individual characteristics, such as smoking. Next, Neil explains the statistical technique known as ‘Mendelian Randomisation’; which uses natural variation in our genes to help understand how health conditions and other individual characteristics impact on health and other social and economic outcomes. Matt, Franz and Neil go on to explore some of Neil’s recent research using this technique, which shows how education and intelligence impact the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, how BMI affects later outcomes, and why continuing longer in school might lead to increased costs at the opticians!
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha talk to Arnaud Chevalier, Professor of Economics at Royal Holloway, University of London. Franz and Matt start by asking Arnaud about several of his projects examining how parents influence their children’s educational attainment, as well as why the fall of the Berlin wall led to a dip in school results. The discussion then moves on to higher education; Arnaud explaining how the ethnic and linguistic mix in a classroom impacts attainment, with wider implications for managing migration. Finally, Franz and Matt talk to Arnaud about his work on the MMR vaccine crisis of the late 1990s – and how education impacted responses to public health information. Plus, we hear Franz’s musings on a possible alternative life as a farmer…
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Matt Dickson and Franz Buscha talk to John Jerrim, Professor of Education and Social Statistics at the Institute of Education, University College London. Matt and Franz begin by asking John about his recent research into ‘overclaiming’ – otherwise known as ‘bullshitting’ (!) – amongst students, and how the findings give potential insights into some of the patterns of labour market outcomes we observe in the UK. John then discusses some of his cross-country comparative work and explains the “Great Gatsby Curve”; linking a country’s level of income inequality and degree of social mobility, and the role of education within the relationship. The programme ends with a discussion of the role of academic quantitative social scientists in informing public policy, how evidence can be mishandled, and how academic practice and the interface with policy might be improved to the benefit of all.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson look back at some of their favourite episodes from 2019, highlighting the things they found most interesting – and in some cases depressing! – about the research findings shared by a selection of different guests.
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 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 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.
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 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.