Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century

In 2015 Anne Case and Angus Deaton wrote a paper documenting mortality increases among white middle-aged lower socio-economic status people in the United States. The paper attracted a lot of debate both in terms of its political implications and the complexities of the statistical analysis used to calculate the trends (see e.g. Gelman and Auerbach reply, Case and Deaton reply; Noah Smith summary of the debate).

Case and Deaton have recently released another working paper that increases the scope of their original work, including the addition of a wider set of comparison groups, including Ireland. The paper is available at this link. The key table that includes Ireland is below, showing the well-documented declines in mortality during this period, that were partly offset by increases in deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide. The late Brendan Walsh had an excellent paper that shows what lies beneath the suicide aspect of most of these trends for Ireland, in particular the competing roles of high but declining rates of alcohol consumption and initially low but then sharply increased rates of unemployment. Richard Layte and others have written about the patterns of mortality during the bulk of this period. The declines in mortality from heart disease among this age group really gives some pause for thought.

Cass Sunstein – New Directions in Behaviourally Informed Policy

The video of Professor Cass Sunstein’s recent talk “New Directions in Behaviourally Informed Policy” at UCD is available, along with links to papers and other reading, at this link. The event was hosted jointly by the UCD College of Social Science and UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy in conjunction with the Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network. The talk is followed by a very wide-ranging Q+A and also includes a number of observations about this area of policy in Ireland.

Workshop on Economic Policy in Ireland and Scotland 24th March

Workshop on Economic Policy in Ireland and Scotland

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This workshop is intended to begin a dialogue between Ireland and Scotland (and perhaps Wales and Northern Ireland) over economic issues of joint interest. This first workshop is being held in Edinburgh, Scotland and is being organised by David Bell (Stirling Management School) and Liam Delaney (Stirling Management School and University College, Dublin) and Ray Perman (David Hume Institute). The papers from the workshop will be published by the David Hume Institute. The event is sponsored by Fiscal Affairs Scotland. Registration is free but spaces are limited so please register here in advance.
Speakers include:
Anne Nolan (ESRI, Dublin)
David Bell (University of Stirling)
David Eiser (University of Strathclyde)
Elaine Douglas (University of Stirling)
Frank Barry (Trinity College, Dublin)
John Cullinan (National University of Ireland Galway)
John Mclaren (Fiscal Affairs Scotland)
Kirsty Hughes (University of Edinburgh)
Liam Delaney (University of Stirling and University College Dublin)
Lucy Blackburn (Adventures in Evidence)
Muiris Maccarthaigh (Queen’s University Belfast)
Nicola McEwen (University of Edinburgh)
Paul Cairney (University of Stirling)
Ed Poole(University of Cardiff)

A full programme for the day will appear on this site soon!

9th Annual Irish Economics, Psychology, and Policy Conference

9th Annual Irish Economics, Psychology, and Policy Conference

Queen’s University Belfast

November 25th 2016
The ninth annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 25th in Queen’s University Belfast, jointly organised by researchers in QUB, ESRI, Stirling and UCD. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology, and cognate disciplines throughout Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy. If you would like to attend, please register on the following link. There is no registration fee but we require advanced registration in order to provide access to the building etc.,
As well as the annual workshop we have developed a broader network to meet more regularly to discuss work at the intersection of economics, psychology, and policy. This has had six meet-ups so far, as well as some offshoot sessions. Anyone interested in this area is welcome to attend. A website with more details and a mailing list to sign up to is available here. There are currently 226 people signed up to the network and the events have been, at least in my view, very lively and interesting. There are several more planned for throughout 2016/2017 and we welcome suggestions.

830am – 850am: Registration

850am Welcome

9am to 10.40am: Behavioural Science and Policy Case Studies (Chair: David Comerford)

Katja Fells (RWI) “Behavioral Economics and Energy Conservation – A Systematic Review of Innovative Interventions and their Causal Effects”.
Nicole Andelic (QUB) “Debt advice is better delivered face-to-face than via telephone”.
Thomas Conway (NUIG): “Investigating the effects of the Great Recession on the mental health of Irish third-level students.”
Mark McGovern (QUB) “Disparities in Early Life Investments and Children’s Time Use”.
Cathal FitzGerald (DCU) “Surprisingly Rational? The Case of 100% Mortgages in Ireland in 2005”.

10.40am to 11am: Coffee

11am to 1pm:  Measurement, Method, and Behavioural Science (Chair: Pete Lunn)

Carla Prentice (QUB): “Time Discounting as a Mediator of the Relationship between Financial Stress and Health”.
Seda Erdem (Stirling): “Discrete Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics”.
Aine Ni Choisdealbha (ESRI) “Harnessing habitual behaviour in the laboratory: an experiment on how busy consumers respond to environmental information”.
Arkady Zgonnikov (NUIG): “Using decision space visualisations to characterise individual decision makers”.
Marek Bohacek (ESRI) “Investigating a central mechanism of economic decision making: the ability to trade-off incommensurate attributes”.
Danny Campbell (Stirling): “Discrete Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics”.

1pm to 140pm: Lunch

140pm to 320 pm: Regulation, Policy, and Behavioural Science (Chair: Liam Delaney)

Clare Delargy (BIT): “Behavioural Insights and Public Policy”.
Michael Daly (Stirling): “Self-control, health, and public policy”.
Maureen Maloney and Alma McCarthy (NUIG): “Automatic enrolment and employee risk:  An analysis using a bounded rationality framework”.
Leonhard Lades (Stirling) “Self-control, well-being, and normative measures of welfare”.
Karl Purcell and Laura Watts (IGEES). “Behavioural Economics and Irish policy”.

320pm to 330pm: Coffee

330pm to 415pm: Keynote Speaker 1: Professor Muireann Quigley (Newcastle Law School) “Libertarian Paternalism & Nudging: On Alluring Concepts and Public Policy”.

415pm to 5pm: Keynote Speaker 2: Professor Michelle Baddeley (UCL) Title TBC “Behavioural Economics and Regulation”.

Benefit Sanctions in Ireland

The Irish Times reported recently that over 4,000 people on job seekers benefit had a penalty cut imposed from January up to July this year. The culture of using penalties or sanctions in benefit contexts needs to be debated a lot more. They have become a normalised feature of the UK benefit system (blogpost I wrote on this here and lengthy and somewhat eclectic reading list here; see David Webster for detailed analyses of how sanctions evolved from 2010 onwards). There is a substantial body of evidence documenting substantially elevated levels of psychological distress and mental health problems among people who are long-term unemployed. There is also substantial controlled correlational evidence that sanctions at the levels imposed in the UK are associated with a range of negative outcomes  (including here, here) though the causal impact is one that still is for debate.

Furthermore, there have been dramatic problems with implementing an albeit far more extensive system of sanctions in the UK (e.g see the Oakley report which points out what look like very large flaws in the system of administering sanctions). One of the most lucid accounts of this is given by Professor Michael Adler here.  Adler examines UK benefit sanctions from the perspective of eight legal principles below, and argues that they fail most of these criteria and should either be remedied or better yet replaced with non-punitive methods.

The law must be accessible and, so far as possible, intelligible, clear and predictable.
Questions of legal right and liability should ordinarily be resolved by application of the law and not of discretion.
The laws of the land should apply equally to all, save to the extent that objective differences justify differentiation.
Ministers and public officials at all levels must exercise the powers conferred on them in good faith, fairly for the purpose for which the powers were conferred, without exceeding the limits of such powers and not unreasonably.
The law must offer adequate protection of fundamental human rights.
Means must be provided for resolving, without prohibitive cost or inordinate delay, bona fide civil disputes which the parties themselves are unable to resolve.
Adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair.
The rule of law requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international law as in national law.

The extent to which the type of things being envisioned under Job Path are susceptible to these criticisms is something that should be discussed more. It is also worth thinking about the direction of this policy in Ireland and whether it represents a move toward the more widespread and normalised use of these methods across a wide range of policy areas and whether it will be ramped up to a greater degree in the employment area itself. At the very least, it would be good if the responsible politicians were asked to articulate the reasoning behind and direction of these policies, and the extent to which they are legal and ethical. There are some empirical papers pointing to a potential role for such sanctions in motivating employment uptake in the short-run (key paper here) but it is reasonable to think that this relationship will depend on the state of the economy, the degree of skills mismatch, and other features of the participant pool and quality of implementation. It is also not an argument for ignoring legal and ethical aspects of roll-out.

9th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference

9th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference

The ninth annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 25th in Belfast, jointly organised by researchers in QUB, ESRI, Stirling and UCD. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology, and cognate disciplines throughout Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy. If you would like to present at this event please send a 200 word abstract to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk before Friday 9th September.

As well as the annual workshop we have developed a broader network to meet more regularly to discuss work at the intersection of economics, psychology, and policy. This has had five meet-ups so far, as well as some offshoot sessions. Anyone interested in this area is welcome to attend. A website with more details and a mailing list to sign up to is available here. There are currently over 200 people signed up to the network and the events have been, at least in my view, very lively and interesting. There are several more planned for throughout 2016/2017 and we welcome suggestions.