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 how science funding in the UK is disbursed to Universities. They examine what the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is and how it affects the work behaviours and career prospects of modern academics. Franz and Matt discuss the impact of metrics for evaluation purposes and consider how they are personally affected by the various University evaluation schemes such as REF, TEF and KEF. They also discuss the concept of ‘impact’ and how it encourages academics to go beyond their ‘ivory towers’ and engage society with their research.
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 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.
This episode is a special edition of Policy Matters, looking back at some of the highlights from the last year. We revisit our discussions of social mobility in general and the role of vocational education in particular, along with more recent conversations on the economics of crime and the economics of happiness. Franz and Matt will be back with more episodes of Policy Matters in 2019.