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 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 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.
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.
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.
In this episode of Policy Matters, hosts Franz Buscha and Matt Dickson are joined by Dr Lindsey Macmillan from University College London to discuss the role of education in social mobility. Issues relating to education are never far from the policy agenda or the headlines – whether it is early years education, university tuition fees or the possible return of grammar schools. But what does academic research tell us about the role of education at each age and stage in improving life-chances of children from poorer backgrounds, and what does this mean for policy? Franz and Matt discuss these issues with Lindsey; and also consider the limits as to what education policy can achieve, given the way that the UK labour market – and wider society – is structured.