Irish Postgraduate and Early Career Economics Workshop

See below for the programme for the return of the Irish postgraduate and early career economics workshop (previously “ISNE conference”). All are welcome to attend. Thanks to School of Economics in UCD for providing financial support.

Irish Postgraduate Early Career Economics Conference

UCD Geary Institute

Friday May 4th

9am to 915am: Opening Remarks: Professor Liam Delaney (UCD), Dr. Lisa Ryan (UCD), Dr. Ben Elsner (UCD), Dr. Michelle Queally

Session 1a: 915am to 1045am Session 1b: 915am to 1045am
Sanghamatira Mukrhrejee (UCD) “Factors influencing early electric vehicle adoption in Ireland”. Aine Doran (QUB) “Population Dynamics in 19th century Ireland”.
Bryan Coyne (TCD) “The impact of a subsidised weatherisation scheme on Irish domestic energy consumption”. Gayana Vardanyan (TCD) “The long-run impact of historical shocks on the decision to migrate: evidence from the Irish Famine”.
Martin Murphy (ESRI) “Predicting farm’s non-compliance with regulations on emissions of nitrates”. Man Wing (Lorraine) Wong (UCD) “The effect of language proximity on the labour market outcomes of the asylum population in Switzerland”.
10.45am  to 11am Coffee
Session 2a: 11am to 1230pm Session 2b: 11am to 1230pm
Florian Gerth (CBOI) “Entry and Exit Dynamics of UK firms in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis”.

Patrick McHale, BA  (NUIG) & Thomas Plunkett, B.Pharm (NUIG) “Healthy Eating Meal Plan Preferences Amongst a University Population: A DCE Approach”

Tammana Adhikari (UCD) “Deals versus Rules?”. Kenneth Devine (UCD) “Mortgage Choice and Expectations”.
David Jordan (QUB) “Doomed to decline?: Interwar industrial performance and policy in Northern Ireland”. Ivan Petrov (UCD) “Information Asymmetry, Split Incentives, and Energy Efficiency in the Residential Rental Market”.
1245pm to 130pm Lunch
Session 3a: 130pm to 3pm Session 3b: 130pm to 3pm
Dora Tuda (TCD) “Does higher unemployment increase income inequality: evidence from European labour markets using a discrete choice experiment”. Iordanis Parikoglou (UCD/Teagasc). “The impact of innovation on farm level productivity: evidence from the Irish dairy sector”.
TBC Stefano Ceolotto (TCD). “The impact of moral licensing on pro-environmental behaviours”.
Philip Carthy (ESRI) “Is employment growth affected by the introduction of broadband services?: Evidence from Ireland”. Linda Mastrandrea (UCD) “Linking retail pricing policy with the decarbonisation of the electricity sector”.
Coffee 3pm to 315pm
Session 4a: 315pm to 445pm Session 4b: 3pm to 445pm
Deirdre Coy (UCD) “Health formation in an RCT Early Childhood Visiting Programme”. Eoin Corrigan (UCD) “Capricious Redistribution: The Scale and Impacts of the Local Authority Rent Subsidy”.
Anne Devlin (QUB) “Why is work-limiting disability in Northern Ireland so high?”. Stephen Byrne (CBOI) “Solving the wage puzzle: Does the ‘nonemployment rate’ explain wage dynamics?”.

 

 

 

Call for Papers: Irish Economics Postgraduate and Early Career Conference 2018

Call for Papers: Irish Economics Postgraduate and Early Career Conference 2018

The Irish Society for New Economists (ISNE) workshop for postgraduate and early career researchers will take place in University College Dublin Geary Institute for Public Policy on Friday May 4th. The event is aimed at PhD students and early career researchers across the Irish universities. It will take the form of thematic sessions with faculty discussant input at each session, along with keynote talks, and engagement with policy and industry. We welcome submissions of papers from PhD students and early career researchers in institutions on the island of Ireland.

The ISNE was formed to encourage research, information and social links among economists at the early stages of their careers in Ireland. From 2001 to 2013, the Irish Society for New Economists (ISNE) held eleven workshops in Ireland for postgraduate and early career researchers. The events were run mostly by PhD students in the Universities, including events hosted by UCD, TCD, Limerick, Maynooth, Cork, and Galway. The conference is intended for advanced Masters students, PhD students, and young professionals in the early stages of research working in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We strongly encourage those working on economics-related research to submit. Eligibility to present is not related to age. The meeting will feature the work and findings of scholars in economics and related fields, and will provide an excellent opportunity to present your own research results and work in progress.

As the conference is free to attend, no financial assistance for travel or accommodation can be provided. Researchers wishing to submit their work for consideration are advised to submit an extended abstract (300-500 words) at this link. Applicants are asked to include their name, institute or affiliation, current academic status (PhD, Young Professional, Masters) and JEL code(s) for their research on submitting an abstract. All of the above information should be attached in a /single PDF or Word File/. The deadline for the abstract submission is 15th April 2018. Applicants will receive notification shortly afterwards. The organising committee consists of Dr. Lisa Ryan, Dr. Benjamin Elsner, and Professor Liam Delaney at UCD, and Dr. Michelle Queally at NUI Galway. Please direct inquiries to liam.delaney@ucd.ie

Muiris MacCarthaigh on Budget 2018

Guest post below from Muiris MacCarthaigh from Queen’s University Belfast:

Budget 2018 and a tale of two Departments

The budget to be published this Tuesday will be the first since 2010 to be prepared and delivered by a single Minister, Paschal Donohoe T.D., who holds both Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform portfolios.

As will be widely remembered by readers of this blog, following the 2011 general election the Department of Finance was essentially split in two, with that Department retaining control over taxation and reform of the financial services sector. (Indeed for a while consideration was given to renaming it the Department of Finance and Taxation). The ‘spending’ side of the Department was removed and combined with public service reform and industrial relations into the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).  As well as providing for a significant reallocation of central government functions, and an organizational focus for administrative reform, DPER served the useful political purpose of allowing the Labour Party hold another central government portfolio.  This also gave it co-equal status with Fine Gael at the Economic Management Council or ‘War Cabinet’.

What is not widely appreciated is the enormity of the task faced by officials in the Department of Finance over the pre and post-election period to prepare for and then execute the process of creating the new Deparment, all in a matter of weeks. When beginning the research for my recently published book on DPER over the 2011-16 period, the sheer scale of this undertaking quickly stood out.  Led by a small group of officials, it involved trawling the Irish statute book for all primary and secondary legislation concerning the responsibilities of the Minister for Finance in law from 1922 onwards (as well as some pre-1922 treasury-related functions), before that Department could be disaggregated into two.

The range of responsibilities for which the Minister for Finance had a legal responsibility included such diverse issues as provisions for compensation applications arising from property damage during the 1921-23 Independence and Civil War period, to consenting on borrowings for capital investment for commercial state enterprises. All told, it resulted in a process involving the transfer of over 4000 specific legal functions originally assigned to the Minister of Finance.

In respect of Budgets, a number of interviewees for my study identified how the institutional split between revenue-raising and expenditure functions had created a useful ‘buffering’ effect on demands for increased expenditure by line Departments. Prior to DPER’s existence, the relevant section in the Department of Finance assessed new expenditure proposals from a line Department, and the merits of raising taxation or other forms of revenue to support the measure were also considered in that same Department. With the decoupling, appeals to DPER for extra resources fell largely on deaf ears as the Department and its Minister had no say in taxation matters.

The quality of engagements between DPER and other Departments were also deemed to have taken a step change by virtue of the economic evaluations provided for them by the IGEES.  Additionally, the strong relationship between Ministers Howlin and Noonan were consistently referred to as being vital to the Irish crisis response, including budgetary coherence, and by proxy to the stability of the government as a whole.

At the launch of my book, Minister Donohoe identified that the Taoiseach had been keen to maintain the two Departments when announcing his Cabinet following his election in June. Whether this was to preserve the integrity of DPER’s reform agenda, to place coordination of fiscal and budgetary policy in one Minister, or to avoid accusations of a return to pre-crisis arrangements for government departments is hard to say. As is how long DPER will continue to operate as a separate Deparment .The economic crisis may be a decade old, but its effects on budgetary policy and the organisation of Irish government continue to be felt.

Dr Muiris MacCarthaigh is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Public Administration at Queen’s University Belfast. His new book, Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Countering Crisis, has just been published by Palgrave.

Map of Economic Thought in Dublin

Following up from the previous post, here is a first version of a map of the history of economics in Dublin.  The purpose of this map is to stimulate discussion and appreciation of the history of economic thought in Dublin. Some of the figures, including Edgeworth, Geary, Cairnes and Bastable, made intellectual contributions that are important internationally, and many of the economists featured were key figures in national policy debates.  It is intended as a public discussion tool and not itself as a primary academic source and draws in detail from excellent source material below, in particular the Boylan et al, 2011, Murphy 1984 and Murphy and Prendergast 2000 books that are worth reading for anyone with an interest in Irish history, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It is also a work-in-progress and I will update frequently. It is based on a similar project conducted by Professor Ian Preston at University College London. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctp100/Walks/EconWalks.htm Doireann O’Brien provided detailed assistance with locating sources and developing the map and associated resources. Comments or suggestions can be sent to liam.delaney@ucd.ie

Bibliography

Barrington, Richard. “History of SSISI.” The Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland. Web.

Boland, Rosita. “Sophie Bryant, Mathematician and Pioneer of Education for Women.” The Irish Times. 23 Aug. 2016. Web.

Boylan, Thomas. Political Economy and Colonial Ireland: The Propagation and Ideological Functions of Economic Discourse in the Nineteenth Century. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Print.

Boylan, Thomas A., Renee Prendergast, and John D. Turner. A History of Irish Economic Thought. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.

“British Academy Scholarship.” British Academy Scholarship. Oxford University Press. Web.

Callinan, Frank. “Thomas Michael Kettle: An Enduring Legacy.” The Irish Times. 16 May 2016. Web.

Cullen, Clara, Mary E. Daly, and Orla Feely. The Building of the State: Science and Engineering with Government on Merrion Street. Dublin: U College Dublin, 2011. Print.

“The Economic and Social Research Institute.” ESRI – The Economic and Social Research Institute. Web.

Fanning, Bryan. Histories of the Irish Future. London: Bloomsbury Academic, an Imprint of Bloomsbury Plc, 2015. Print.

“Faulkner, George.” Dublin Music Trade. Ed. Barra Boydell and Catherine Ferris. The Music Libraries Trust, The Society for Musicology in Ireland. Web. 22 June 2017.

Granville, David. “Sophie Bryant (part 1).” Irish Democrat Archive : Features. Connolly Association, C/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD, 10 Dec. 2008. Web.

Harbison, Peter. “Royal Irish Academy.” The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Ed. Brian Lalor. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003. 948-49. Print.

“Houses of the Oireachtas – Where It Began!” Houses of the Oireachtas. Houses of the Oireachtas. Web.

“Identity Statement for Professor James Meenan.” UCD Archives. Winter 1992. Web.

M, M. J. “Professor Patrick Lynch.” The Irish Times. 3 Dec. 2001. Web.

McCabe, Brian. “Building of the Month – Department of Industry and Commerce.” Archive: Buildings of Ireland: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Nov. 2012. Web.

Murphy, Antoin E. Economists and the Irish Economy: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day. Blackrock: Irish Academic in Association with Hermathena, 1984. Print.

Murphy, Antoin E.; Prendergast, Renee “Contributions to the History of Economic Thought-Essays in Honour of R.D.C. Black”
Taylor and Francis, 2000.

Nolan, Mark C. “Keynes’ View on Self-sufficiency.” The Irish Times. 7 Aug. 2012. Web.

O’Connor, J. J., and E. F. Robertson. “Robert Charles Geary.” MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive. School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland. Web.

“Online Catalogue.” Library of Congress. Web. 22 June 2017.

“Online Library of Liberty.” Online Library of Liberty. Liberty Fund, 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 June 2017.

“Oxford DNB Resources.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. David Cannadine. Oxford University Press, 2014-2017.

Preston, Ian. “Women, Economics and UCL in the Late 19th Century.” Women, Economics and UCL in the Late 19th Century. 20 May 2015. Web.

Scott, William Robert. Francis Hutcheson: His Life, Teaching and Position in the History of Philosophy. Cambridge, 1900. Print.

 

London Economics History

Professor Ian Preston at UCL has produced various resources on the history of Economics in London, including a wonderful map of 16 walking tours. His website contains a lot of information about the development of Economics throughout the centuries and is a terrific resource.

There are quite a few Irish connections, not least JE Cairnes and FY Edgeworth. A particularly interesting connection is the presence of Dublin-born Sophie Bryant in the first class of women to take part in co-educational university education. Sophie Bryant was an interesting person with several achievements and was awarded an honorary doctorate by TCD shortly after they had started to award degrees to women. She was profiled recently by the Irish Times.

Stimulated by Ian’s work, I am putting together a resource for Dublin and will do a walking tour on Sunday July 16th (sign-up page here). Will post further details in the next few weeks. A working version of our Dublin map is available but not ready for public distribution. If there are any particularly eager people who might be willing to look at it and comment, I would welcome emails.

10th Annual Irish Economics and Psychology Conference

We will host the 10th annual Irish economics and psychology conference in UCD on Friday December 1st. Our keynote speakers will be Professor Don Ross (UCC) and Professor Jennifer Sheehy Skeffington (LSE). If you would like to present, please send an abstract to Liam.Delaney@ucd.ie Those who wish to register to attend can do so at this link. For the first time, we will also host an early career conference the day before aimed at PhD students and early stage researchers in other agencies. Abstracts can be submitted at this link.

On September 8th, we will launch the behavioural science and public policy stream at UCD Geary Institute with Professor Peter John of UCL as the keynote speaker. Details of the new group are available at this link and you can sign up to attend the event here. As well as the new MSc, there are various opportunities in the form of PhD studentships and we will be hiring researchers at all levels sporadically over the next few years. The mailing list for the Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network is here and we have hosted several events over the last couple of years, including a recent one with Prof Cass Sunstein. We will host a July 11th event with Professor Dilip Soman of the University of Toronto Rotman School (details here).

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

DESCRIPTION
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.

ESRI Report on Consumer Decision Making

The ESRI published a report on Friday entitled “An Investigation of Consumers’ Capabilities with Complex Products“. The authors are Pete Lunn, Marek Bohacek, Jason Somerville, Aine Ni Choisdealbha and Féidhlim McGowan. It contains a fascinating range of experimental findings demonstrating the pronounced difficulties experienced by consumers in valuing and making decisions with complex, multi-attribute products.

Below is from the ESRI press release. This has been a long-run research programme and the work is worth wide-spread debate in terms of implications for consumer protection, regulation and related policy areas.

PRICE Lab is a research programme in behavioural economics, jointly funded by the Central Bank of Ireland, the Commission for Communications Regulation, the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The lab uses computerised experiments to study what consumers are capable of and what they are not.

The experiments described in the report systematically tested how accurately consumers could distinguish good deals from bad deals. The results showed that once consumers had to take into account more than two or three factors at the same time, they struggled to spot good deals and often made mistakes.

The findings also revealed systematic biases in consumers’ choices. Across multiple experiments, consumers tended to think that deals closer to the top of the product range were good value while deals closer to the bottom were bad, even when the high-end products were expensive for what they were and the low-end products were good value at the price listed.

The report discusses implications of the results for consumer protection. The findings suggest that consumers can benefit if product ranges and descriptions are kept simple. Where companies instead market products in an unnecessarily complex fashion, with multiple characteristics and price components, consumers will be more likely to make mistakes. In markets where consumers struggle with the volume or complexity of product information, comprehensive, independent price comparison sites can play an important role, by helping consumers to integrate the information or by drawing consumers’ attention to the most important product features.

Odds on Brexit

I posted before about David Bell’s analysis of the Scottish referendum bookies odds. The bookmakers seemed to do a good job not overreacting to the late poll numbers showing a marked swing to Yes. The days before the referendum were throwing up some dramatic poll results but the odds did not adjust as dramatically, implying the bookies were either temporally averaging across polls, had some priors about the quality of the polls, or were doing a degree of Bayesian updating or something similar. David has provided a nice piece here for those looking to keep track of bookies odds for Brexit. For now, it looks like Stay is the favorite by quite a margin and more than one would think just by looking at opinion polls.

Behavioural Science and Policy Network Meet-Up

Details of our 4th Irish Behavioural Science and Policy network meet-up are below. Sign up for the mailing list here. Sign up for the event itself here. Registration is free.

The fourth Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network meet-up will take place on April 25th at 6pm in Dublin city centre (venue tbc). It will end at 8pm.  Each meet-up is structured around a collection of short talks, where each speaker describes briefly an idea they are working on (or thinking about), followed by questions, potential suggestions for collaboration between members, and a group discussion on the collection of talks.

This session will focus on applications of behavioural science to public policy. including health applications and the role of design principles. Speakers will include Dan Hayden from UCDClare Delargy from the BITEoin O’Malley from DCU and David Hevey from TCD.

All those interested are welcome to attend, so please do share this event information with anyone who you think would like to come along.

We look forward to seeing you on the 25th of April.

8th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference ESRI Dublin

8th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference ESRI Dublin 

The eight annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 27th at the ESRI in Dublin. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology and cognate disciplines in Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy. Please sign up here to attend. There is no registration fee. Our keynote speakers are: Alan Sanfey, one of the world’s leading experts on fairness and social decision making; Stefan Hunt, who will speak about behavioural economics and financial regulation; and Pelle Hansen, who will discuss ongoing work on behavioural science and policy in Denmark.

At the last event in November 2014 we agreed to develop a broader network to meet more regularly to discuss work at the intersection of economics, psychology and policy. This has had three meet-ups so far and a fourth will take place on November 9th. 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 100 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 and we welcome suggestions.

Programme 

830am to 9am: Registration

9.15am to 940am: Cathal Fitzgerald (DCU) “I Groupthink Therefore We Are: Detecting Behavioural Convergence in Leaders Before the Economic Crisis”.

9.40am to 1005am: Michael Daly (Stirling and UCD) “Childhood Self-Control and Smoking Throughout Life”.

1005am to 1030am: Victoria Taranu (Universiteit Hasselt ) “The implications of nudging in reducing residential energy demand and its potential for the EPC”.

1030am to 11am: Coffee

11am to 1125am: Leonhard Lades (Stirling) “Present bias and everyday self-control failures: A Day Reconstruction Study”.

1125am to 1150pm: David Comerford (Stirling). “The role of agency in preferences”.

1150pm to 1215pm: Irene Mosca and Cathal McCRory (TCD): “Personality and Wealth Accumulation Among Older Couples: Do Dispositional Characteristics Pay Dividends?”.

1215pm to 1pm: Alan Sanfey (Radbood). “Social motivations in decision-making: Insights from Decision Neuroscience”.

1pm to 2pm: LUNCH

2pm to 240pm: Pete Lunn (ESRI). “Pricelab: experiments for consumer policy”

240pm to 320pm: Stefan Hunt (FCA). “Applying behavioural insights to regulation: lessons from consumer financial protection”.

320pm to 350pm Coffee

350pm to 430pm: Pelle G Hansen  (Roskilde University). “Applying behavioural science in Denmark: progress and lessons”.

430 to 5pm Discussion

Geary Institute Workshop on Well-Being and Economic Conditions

The Geary Institute is hosting a half-day workshop to look at changes in well-being in Ireland over the last 10 to 15 years. The specific aim is to consider a wide range of possible outcomes including physical and mental health as well as subjective well-being. Moreover we want to draw on a range of approaches from epidemiology, psychological medicine and the social sciences as well as different types of data. The event will be held in the UCD Geary Institute on Tuesday November 17th from 1130pm to 4pm. A light lunch would be provided.  This is is likely to be a full event so please RSVP to geary@ucd.ie to register attendance (there is no fee) and also let us know if you subsequently cannot make it.

Co-organisers: Kevin Denny (UCD) and Liam Delaney (Stirling University)

Programme:

1130pm to 1150pm: Registration

11.50pm – 1200pm: Introduction and Aims

1200pm – 1230pm: Brendan Walsh (UCD): “Reflections on Economic Conditions and Well-being in Ireland”.

1230pm – 1.00pm: Paul Corcoran (UCC) “Impact of Austerity and Recession on Suicide and Self-Harm in Ireland”.

1.00pm-130pm: Lunch

130pm – 2pm: Kevin Denny (UCD): “Self-reported health in good times and in bad: Ireland in the 21st century”.

2pm – 230pm: Eithne Sexton (TCD) – “Subjective wellbeing at older ages in Ireland 2009-2013: Predictors of change over time”.

230pm – 3pm: Cecily Kelleher (UCD): “Impact of the Economic Climate on Health Status during the first two decades of the 21st Century in the Republic of Ireland: Findings from the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort study of a Thousand Families”.

3pm – 330pm: Michael Hogan (NUIG):  “Engaging with Citizens in the Design of Well-being Measures and Policies:  Systems Thinking and the Public Participation Network”.

330 – 4pm: Discussion

Brexit and Ireland

The election of the majority Conservative government in May meant that a referendum to decide whether Britain remains part of the EU became inevitable. A commitment to an “in-out” referendum on EU membership was provided in the May Queen’s Speech and it will likely go ahead in 2016 (or 2017 at the latest). Opinion polls show a split electorate. Risk aversion and other status quo factors should work in favour of the “stay” side. Bookies odds reflect this with at least one popular bookmaker placing the odds of a “leave” result at 3-1. In any case while the likeliest outcome at present is that Britain will remain in the EU, it is still a strong possibility they will leave and worth discussing in terms of implications for Britain and other countries. Germane to the title of this blog the implications for the Irish economy broadly are worth discussing.

In the draft national risk assessment published by the Taoiseach’s office earlier this year, Brexit is mentioned as follows:

“Following the general election in May, the British Government is likely to make proposals both on how the functioning of the EU could be improved and on how specific UK concerns about EU membership could be addressed, with the possibility of a UK referendum on EU membership. A fundamental change to the role of the UK in the EU, or a period of continuing uncertainty regarding the UK’s relationship with the EU, could present significant challenges for the EU as a whole and for Ireland in particular, especially in terms of (i) pursuit of Ireland’s objectives as a Member State as the UK is an important ally within the EU on negotiations on issues of mutual concern such as trade and the deepening of the single market; 24 (ii) bilateral relations with the UK, including the significant economic and trading relationship; and (iii) the impact on Northern Ireland issues and North/South relations.”

A number of questions come to mind in the prospect of Britain leaving the EU. I raise these purely for discussion and they are not ordered by any degree of likelihood or priority. In the event of a “leave” vote a number of alternative configurations might result including various forms of trade deal with the UK and EU members. (See here for one attempt to answer some of the economic questions below; Davy’s also released a piece on economic effects; NTMA piece on economic effects here; Alan Matthews on the implications for Irish agri-food).

a) What are the implications for border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?

b) What are the implications for the status of UK citizens living in the Republic Ireland?

c) What are the implications for Irish citizens living in the United Kingdom?

d) Will the uncertainty surrounding the referendum affect currency volatility?

e) How will the uncertainty surrounding the referendum impact on FDI into Ireland? Does the prospect of a Brexit make Ireland a safer destination for some types of companies relative to the UK? In a “leave” scenario would Ireland be more attractive a destination than the UK for non-EU companies looking for access to the EU market?

f) How would a Brexit influence trade between Ireland and the rest of the EU?

g) What implications would Brexit have for the Scottish political situation and potential knock-on effects to the Irish economy?

h) What implications would it have for support for the EU in Ireland?

i) How would a “leave” result influence the Northern Irish economy?

j) Would a “leave” result limit mobility of Irish people to the UK?

k) What implications would a “leave” result have for wider political movements in Europe?

The small amount of publicly available analysis so far suggests the answer to most of the economic questions is that it would have a negative impact on the Irish economy largely coming through trade disruption. But it seems clear there is a lot of uncertainty in what a leave scenario would look like. As reported widely in the media there are now various groups in Ireland looking at these questions including in various state agencies and the Central Bank. It will be interesting to see this debate unfold.

Diary Date: Workshop on Well-Being and Recent Irish Economic History

Kevin Denny and I are organising a half-day workshop to look at Changes in Well-being in Ireland over the last 10 to 15 years. Obviously this has been an eventful time in Ireland and we think it would be very useful at this stage to draw together what is known about the Irish case.  Our specific aim is to consider a  wide range of possible outcomes including physical and mental health as well as subjective well-being. Moreover we want to draw on a range of approaches from epidemiology, psychological medicine and the social sciences as well as different types of data. Our intention is to have  around 7 presentations with plenty of time for discussion. The event will be held in the UCD Geary Institute on Tuesday November 17th from 12pm to 4pm. A light lunch would be provided. Further details of the talks and how to register will be provided here in due course. Suggestions on the programme still welcome.

Economics, Psychology and Policy Meetings

Since 2008 a number of us have organised an annual conference for people working at the interface of economics, psychology and related areas. Speakers have included international thought-leaders in this area including David Laibson, David Halpern, Robert Sugden, Arie Kapteyn, Ruth Byrne and John O’Doherty as well a diverse range of speakers from across economics, psychology and policy in Ireland and they have contributed to maintaining an active discussion of the potential for this area in Ireland. The next one will take place at the ESRI in Dublin on November 27th. At the previous session we agreed to organise some more adhoc meet-ups in between the events partly to disseminate new ideas and also with a view to establishing a more structured network in this area in Ireland. The first of these meetings takes place in Dublin on July 22nd organised by myself and Sean Gill. It will take place at 7pm sharp at the Roasted Brown coffee shop in Temple Bar. There will be 5 short presentations (to be listed here in the next couple of days) and some discussion about future events. Meet-ups around this area are now taking place in several cities including London and Sydney. I spoke at the Sydney event recently and it was extremely lively and led to several useful follow-ups. There are many people interested in this broad area in Dublin and Ireland more generally. This is intended to a broad forum and we welcome attendance and contribution from academics interested in exchanging ideas with a broad audience, people across different areas including students and people with business and policy interests in this area. For now we envisage the events being structured around short talks where a speaker describes briefly an idea they are working on or thinking about and potentially some suggestions for collaboration. Though there are many other event formats that could be considered. If you are attending please drop me an email at liamdelaney2011@gmail.com

Speakers:

Liam Delaney: Overview of behavioural economics, policy and business.

Michael Daly: Psychology, Self-Control and Policy

Sean Gill: Behavioural Economics and Health

Pete Lunn: Behavioural Economics and Regulation

Audience Contributions,

Q+A and Suggestions for Development of Network

QUB public policy blog

Queen’s University Belfast have just launched a new blog at http://qpol.qub.ac.uk/ (via Muiris MacCarthaigh).

QPol is the ‘front door’ for public policy engagement at Queen’s University Belfast, supporting academics and policymakers in sharing evidence-based research and ideas on the major social, cultural and economic challenges facing us regionally, nationally and beyond.

Our over-arching vision is to share the University’s independent expertise with policymakers so they can make informed decisions about the most effective and sustainable ways to tackle these challenges, now and in the future.

Our mission is to:

Facilitate the provision of independent evidence-based advice, guidance and information to policymakers, ensuring that policy formulation and law-making are informed by world-class research emerging from the University
Ensure Queen’s as it the heart of the public policy discourse, shaping and driving the debate on emerging challenges, helping policymakers to think ‘longer term’ and more strategically about the challenges facing us today
Cultivate and encourage engagement between the academic and the policymaker through effective methods of communication and mutually understandable language
Accelerate the socio-economic impact of research relating to public policy issues at Queen’s and raise awareness of the influence of the University’s research on government policy and legislation
We want to inspire intelligent debate between democratic institutions, academia and wider society in a vast array of policy areas including the economy, public health, social justice and more.

How Paternalistic Should Policymakers be?

The literature on behavioural economics has set off a very interesting debate on the extent to which policy-makers should intervene to improve outcomes in cases where individuals are potentially harming themselves but not others.

A paper by Camerer et al in 2003 put forward the case for asymmetric paternalism whereby policy could potentially help individuals who are not making rational decisions, while not infringing on others. An example is pension auto-enrolment whereby individuals procrastinating on pensions decisions are helped in the process of saving while those who genuinely do not want to take out a pension are not forced to.

Sunstein and Thaler added the idea of Libertarian Paternalism to the literature whereby policy-makers strive to improve outcomes (paternalism) while also placing a high weight on freedom to choose (libertarianism). The now-famous book Nudge is an expression of this philosophy and has had a dramatic impact on policy-makers in the US, UK and to some extent Australia and is being discussed at least in the Irish policy environment.

A big debate is ensuing around Nudge with some claiming the philosophy is too interventionist (see Sunstein’s Storr lectures for a list of these critiques and also his responses – see also a reading list I put together here).

Another line of argument is that Nudge artificially restricts the application of behavioural economics to non-mandated policy interventions. A recent Harvard Law Review piece by Bubb and Pildes examines three areas of policy (financial regulation, fuel pollution and consumer credit regulation) and makes the case that the behavioural evidence does not support soft-paternalist policies but rather a more interventionist approach. In particular they argue that there is a large tension between the evidence provided by behavioural economics and the political position being advocated by many of its adherents. In their view, the bounded rationality displayed by citizens leaves them far more open to exploitation and also far less likely to respond to soft-policies to improve their welfare. They cite an extremely interesting article by Lauren Willis in the University of Chicago Law Review, who argues that Nudges are insufficient in cases where large corporations have incentives to counteract them and she gives a detailed case-study from US financial regulation where financial companies quite easily ran around various default options embedded in consumer protection regulation. She argues that mandates and generally more active regulation is needed in many cases due to the degree of control that the regulated firms have over how to implement “nudges”.

Sunstein’s response to this is available here where he argues that it is important to respect people’s freedom of choice and that it is unclear yet that nudges are ineffective in the face of counteracting moves by vested interests. He argues that, while in some cases mandates may turn out to be neccesary and more effective, this should at least partly be an empirical question and should not ignore the importance of autonomy.

This debate is important in the Irish context. There are many areas of policy where policy objectives lead to tensions between implementation of effective policies and the autonomy of individuals to choose. In cases where individual actions lead to costs to others then traditional economics and regulation is on more solid ground. But when there is active debate about how to reduce health-damaging diet and consumption patterns, promote greater pension coverage and other policies effectively aimed at improving individual welfare through changing their behaviour then this debate is very important and interesting. It also hits against the idea that behavioural economics is an attempt to individualise wider social and economic problems. In this debate, there is a clearly interesting tussle between the interests of large companies, the decisions of boundedly rational households and the political factors that lead to the mandates of regulators. It provides an interesting and realistic way of debating policy and regulation.

New DCU MSc in Public Policy

DCU School of Law and Government have launched a new MSc in Public Policy:

The global financial crisis has exposed flaws in the policy making system in Ireland and elsewhere. Part of this relates to the technical capacity of policy makers to do effective public policy analysis. This is something recognised by the Irish state and the European Union as well as other international bodies as they attempt to increase the number of professionally qualified policy specialists working for them.

In response DCU is offering a bespoke, interdisciplinary course designed to suit the needs of a new generation of policy makers. It will be hosted in the School of Law and Government, but builds on links across the University and is a key part of a new Institute for Innovative Government (IIG).

This is a new type of professional degree – in many ways a parallel for those in the policy/government sector to an MBA in the commercial sector. It will have an intellectual base and methodological rigour that reflect the needs of a sector facing more nuanced and complex challenges.

Irish Economics and Psychology Annual Workshop

The eight annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 27th at the ESRI in Dublin. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology and cognate disciplines in Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy (see detailed reading list on this area here) though we welcome submissions across all areas of intersection of Economics and Psychology. We welcome submissions from PhD students as well as faculty and also welcome suggestions for sessions on policy and industry relevance of behavioural economics. Abstracts (200-500 words) should be submitted before September 30th to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk. Suggestions or questions please send to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk and/or Pete.Lunn@esri.ie Further details of wider network activities will be added here shortly. Details of the previous seven workshops are available here.

New Cormac O’Grada Book on Famine

Eating People Is Wrong, and Other Essays on Famine, Its Past, and Its Future

Famines are becoming smaller and rarer, but optimism about the possibility of a famine-free future must be tempered by the threat of global warming. That is just one of the arguments that Cormac Ó Gráda, one of the world’s leading authorities on the history and economics of famine, develops in this wide-ranging book, which provides crucial new perspectives on key questions raised by famines around the globe between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries.

The book begins with a taboo topic. Ó Gráda argues that cannibalism, while by no means a universal feature of famines and never responsible for more than a tiny proportion of famine deaths, has probably been more common during very severe famines than previously thought. The book goes on to offer new interpretations of two of the twentieth century’s most notorious and controversial famines, the Great Bengal Famine and the Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine. Ó Gráda questions the standard view of the Bengal Famine as a perfect example of market failure, arguing instead that the primary cause was the unwillingness of colonial rulers to divert food from their war effort. The book also addresses the role played by traders and speculators during famines more generally, invoking evidence from famines in France, Ireland, Finland, Malawi, Niger, and Somalia since the 1600s, and overturning Adam Smith’s claim that government attempts to solve food shortages always cause famines.

Thought-provoking and important, this is essential reading for historians, economists, demographers, and anyone else who is interested in the history and possible future of famine.

Cormac Ó Gráda is professor emeritus of economics at University College Dublin. His books include Famine: A Short History and Black ’47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy, and Memory (both Princeton).

Irish Unemployment

I was asked to provide links and suggestions in terms of policies to respond to unemployment in Ireland. The broad fiscal and monetary causes of unemployment are discussed in many other places and it is clear that a combination of a property bubble, banking collapse and policies that have kept aggregate demand too low are all contributing factors. In considering unemployment, it is clear that more than just the short run shock to income and consumption should be considered. There  is substantial evidence that unemployment has substantial negative psychological effects that are scarring over life and also potentially self-perpetuating. Therefore it should get greater weighting in policy contexts than for models that just examine narrow financial variables. Below are some ideas on potential policy development.

(i) Bell and Blanchflower have written several papers on responding to unemployment in particular to youth unemployment. In one of the most directly relevant to policy, they list 10 potential policies for the UK environment. These are listed below. It is clear that some of these are more feasible than others in the Irish context. For example, people might find a raising of the school leaving age infeasible but a proxy policy such as the introduction of an Education Maintenance allowance is surely worth debating. Similarly, people may not think a fiscal stimulus (at least at Irish-specific level) is feasible but that does not negate the potential for examining the employment consequences of existing current and in particular capital spending. Also some of the policies below have been features of the Irish environment in various ways including increasing the number of back-to-education places.

a. The government should undertake a substantial fiscal stimulus focused on jobs, as soon as possible

b. Provide large cuts in income taxes and National Insurance Contributions aimed at the low paid and the young. For the unemployed, mortgage interest payments could also be paid by the government in the form of a loan, with the proviso that it would have to be paid back eventually.

c. Increase the education leaving age to eighteen starting in June 1st 2009 or as soon thereafter as is feasible.

d. Provide further encouragement for those in the age range 18-24 to undertake further/higher education by increasing the number of places available

e. Provide further encouragement for those in the age range 18-24 to undertake further/higher education by providing financial inducements for them to do so

f. Expand the numbers of teacher training places as soon as possible with an emphasis on training in further education

g. Do direct job creation through increased investment in the infrastructure with particular emphasis on ‘shovel ready’ projects that could start quickly.

h. Allow public sector and non-profit organizations to fill available vacancies by providing increased funding for two years

i. Temporary, limited and targeted expansion of ALMPs

j. Provide incentives to encourage the use of short-time working and job sharing as alternatives to redundancy and unemployment. These might take the form of time limited tax incentives

(ii) See the session from the 2012 Irish economy conference last year for a range of coherent ideas. The session on early childhood development is also very useful.

(iii) The role of better designed welfare and activation policies drawing from developments in the economics of evaluation is something that should be discussed further. Very few if any of the current government employment programmes have been or can be evaluated formally due to the way they are rolled out. For example, the evaluation of Jobbridge does not contain a sufficiently well-constructed control group to allow us to know what would have happened had Jobbridge not been rolled out. This is a problem across most areas of government intervention in the labour market and it hampers the ability to learn from programmes that are rolled out. The best way to achieve this would be to have someone who knows how to construct a causal evaluation assist in the process of writing the tenders for these evaluations, something that does not appear to happen at present.

(iv) I have posted here on a number of occasions about the potential role of understanding psychology in designing welfare policies and job activation. Many activation policies are based on models of human behaviour that are not grounded in empirical evidence. Denise Hawkes from UCL Institute of Education and others have been conducting very interesting behavioural trials in UK job centres (see recent Stirling conference for summary). This is early stage work but is an obvious direction for figuring out how to make government supports for people who are unemployment more effective and supportive. The redevelopment of FAS/SOLAS and the design of communication about welfare policies, education incentives and so on should integrate this literature.

(v) The key missing aspect from traditional models of job activation is the mental health effect of job loss. I have posted on this here recently  and here. The work of Professor Richard Layard in promoting development of policy around unemployment and mental health has been one of the key breakthroughs in this area over the last decade. From what I can see it has gotten not very much attention in Ireland and it would be worth debating this here a lot more with a view to assessing whether some of the ideas should be implemented.

(vi) More generally, a lot of knowledge gaps exist including basic profiles of the unemployed in Ireland such as their processes of job search. While basic profiling has been taking place, there is not a well-developed model of job search such as could be constructed from the DWP job search study. We also know very little about interlinkages between debt, housing and unemployment though the central bank research is improving the situation in this regard. In general, the data available to study job search in Ireland could be improved substantially with more engagement between policy and academics.

Mental Health and Unemployment

I posted recently on the implications of the emerging literature on the economics of mental health in the Irish context. I am currently working on some projects looking at the role of mental health in life-long economic outcomes. One of the first papers from this project is below. It shows a substantial predictive effect childhood distress throughout childhood and adolescence on later trajectories of unemployment and also evidence that this becomes particularly marked during recessions. Apologies for self-promotion but I would like to flag an event we are running in Stirling on this topic on December 5th for which there are still places if people wish to attend. Also people interested in working on this area as a researcher or PhD student please feel free to get in touch.

 Childhood psychological distress and youth unemployment: Evidence from two British cohort studies

Mark Egan, Michael Daly, and Liam Delaney

AbstractThe effect of childhood mental health on later unemployment has not yet been established. In this article we assess whether childhood psychological distress places young people at high risk of subsequent unemployment and whether the presence of economic recession strengthens this relationship. This study was based on 19,217 individuals drawn from two nationally-representative British prospective cohort studies; the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) and the National Child Development Study (NCDS). Both cohorts contain rich contemporaneous information detailing the participants’ early life socioeconomic background, household characteristics, and physical health. In adjusted analyses in the LSYPE sample (N = 10,232) those who reported high levels of distress at age 14 were 2 percentage points more likely than those with low distress to be unemployed between ages 16 and 21. In adjusted analyses of the NCDS sample (N = 8985) children rated as having high distress levels by their teachers at age 7 and 11 were 3 percentage points more likely than those with low distress to be unemployed between ages 16 and 23. Our examination of the 1980 UK recession in the NCDS cohort found the difference in average unemployment level between those with high versus low distress rose from 2.6 pct points in the pre-recession period to 3.9 points in the post-recession period. These findings point to a previously neglected contribution of childhood mental health to youth unemployment, which may be particularly pronounced during times of economic recession. Our findings also suggest a further economic benefit to enhancing the provision of mental health services early in life.

In the Irish context, the Growing Up in Ireland  study has been conducting research on children and adolescent welfare and health and will (subject to following the group up) be able to examine these findings in the Irish context. As said in the previous post, it is a good time to have a debate about the extent to which enough resources are invested in the development of children in Ireland early in life and particularly to examine outcomes such as resilience and mental health that have not traditionally crossed into economic analysis. The extent to which public investments in mental health remediation services throughout childhood and adolescence might produce a long-lasting flow of psychological and financial benefits is a question that has not been given a great deal of evidence-based debate in the Irish context (with notable exceptions including this excellent project by colleagues at UCD).  The emergence of large scale aging cohort study data in the form of the TCD-led TILDA project is another avenue that is starting to show the linkages between mental/physical well-being and economic outcomes throughout life.