Economics and Psychology Workshop

The seventh annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology, co-organised by researchers from UCD, ESRI and NUIM, will be held on October 31st in the UCD Geary Institute. 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 though the workshops have covered work across all areas of intersection of Economics and Psychology. Programmes from the previous six events are here. We welcome students, academics, policy-makers, industry representatives and others with an interest in this area. Registration is free of charge but you should sign up on the link below if you are attending. Other questions about the event can be addressed to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk

Sign up to attend here 

The programme is available below.

Continue reading “Economics and Psychology Workshop”

Mental Health and the Irish Economy

A long literature has examined the role of  economic factors in promoting well-being. This has been a particularly active area for the last decade or so in Economics (summary of recent workshop we did on this topic with readings etc.,). Lately, a major topic of interest has been the role that mental health plays in producing economic outcomes at individual level. For example, an influential 2011 PNAS paper pointed to dramatic long-run economic effects of early life mental health conditions (see my review paper with one of the authors).  Richard Layard has called mental health the new frontier of labour economics and argued for mass expansion of mental health research and treatments. A big focus of the discussion has been the idea that mental health has been systematically discounted compared to physical health conditions in terms of health funding. Various proposals have been put forward to enhance the profile of mental health service in the UK (the recent speech by Nick Clegg one of most prominent).

A few major points to come from this literature and worthy of wide debate in the Irish context include:

The utility losses (for want of a better phrase) of mental health conditions are enormous even outside of effects on productivity and income (e.g. paper here). The interaction of this with physical conditions is also very important. Chronic pain is one particularly important area that should have greater priority in debates on health care (see Alan Krueger on this here).

Childhood mental health has dramatic effects on later life economic outcomes. There is a strong rationale to increase funding for child mental health research and services.  Many childhood mental health problems are practically ignored for the purpose of policy-making. For example, there exists almost no evidence on the long-run effects of prescribing stimulants to children diagnosed with ADHD with recent papers not exactly painting a glowing account of their usefulness (e.g. paper by Janet Currie here).  If you reflect on it, it really is an odd state of affairs that such important questions are neglected. The role of school mental health services for primary school children and teenagers is another area that is important to debate more given the hugely predictive effect of early mental health on life-long trajectories.

Lord Layard and others have argued for a substantial expansion of talk-therapies and a wider roll-out across society (short article outlining this view here; see also Layard and Clark’s recently released book Thrive). In the context of high rates of unemployment still in Ireland and in particular high rates of youth unemployment, this is worth discussing a lot more in the Irish context. Developing funding streams for large-scale referrals for brief talk-therapies is one of the most concrete suggestions to come from the recent literature.

There is a strong rationale for examining the proportion of health funding allocated to mental health in Ireland. It is widely documented  that mental health services in Ireland are given less priority compared to other countries (e.g. recent report here also O’Shea and Kennelly report).

Guest Post on Higher Education Participation

GUEST POST: Darragh Flannery (UL)

In the context of the media coverage related to spatial differences in higher education participation (as outlined in this HEA report) some in this forum may be interested in on-going research conducted by myself, in conjunction with colleagues in NUIG and the ESRI. Our findings to date have been published in the Economic & Social Review (paper available here) and Applied Economics (paper available here). A brief summary of some of our findings and my thoughts on the issue are below. It is worth mentioning that the data used in our research comes from the School Leaver’s Survey (SLS) in 2007 (the SLS was unfortunately discontinued after this year). While our data is obviously dated, I would be confident that the conclusions of both papers are still relevant and possibly even more pronounced today.

The first strand of our research (ESR paper) examined the impact of travel distance to nearest higher education institute on overall higher education participation, controlling for factors such as CAO points, gender etc..  Specifically, we wanted to see how the impact of travel distance may vary according to social class. The results showed that travel distance has a significantly negative impact on participation for those from lower social classes and that this impact grows stronger as distance increases. We also found that the distance effects are most pronounced for lower ability students from these social backgrounds and make some policy recommendations.

The second strand of our research (Applied Economics paper) took a slightly different angle and looked at the impact of travel distance and social class on the type of higher education a young person in Ireland may pursue. So instead of looking at the potential impact that spatial factors might have on whether a young person goes to higher education or not, we wanted to look at how these factors may influence whether students go to a university/non-university, pursue a level 8 degree or not, and the field of study they choose. We found some evidence that spatial factors played a role, but social class was found to be a more powerful determinant. For example, even with the same CAO points and similar geographical accessibility to a university, those from a ‘low’ social class had virtually zero chance of pursing a medical degree compared to someone from a ‘high’ social class. Again we discussed some potential policy options, such as a more flexible higher education grant system and consideration of more affirmative action policies such as social class quotas.

Given the fact that it did not feature at all in the previous National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2008-2013, it is good to see spatial accessibility and its relationship with social class being mentioned by the latest HEA report as a possible driver of variation in higher education participation. However, I do think it is important that the debate does not stop at the rather broad view of the impact this may have on going to higher education or not. Instead, I would think it is important that we delve deeper and investigate more specific outcomes such as the impact social class/spatial factors may have on more specific outcomes such as field of study and longer term labour market outcomes. This is especially relevant in the context of income inequality and social mobility issues.

Behavioural Science and Public Policy

I have posted here on a number of occasions about the relevance of the growing literature on behavioural economics and public policy for the Irish context. This post updates this with some new material and I hope people don’t mind if I draw on some from previous posts.

Increasingly, behavioural science is being used as a term to encapsulate the integration of psychological factors into understanding economic decision-making. This is basically an attempt to preserve the phrase “behavioural economics” to refer to explanations with explicit utility-theoretic foundations and also to avoid a lot of work from psychology simply being repackaged as “behavioural economics”. It is not a wholly satisfactory compromise as the phrase “behavioural science” means different things to different people  but it is certainly helping to form a shared set of ideas and methodologies and looks likely to continue as the main way of  describing this work.

There are a number of reasons for the explosion of interest in this area including the award of the Nobel prize to Daniel Kahneman in 2002 and the adoption of the book “Nudge” by the Obama and Cameron administrations. I think also the sense of purely neo-classical microeconomics being bound up with the regulatory failures surrounding the financial crisis is also fueling an appetite for more realistic accounts of decision-making. It is likely that a lot of what is now called economics will increasingly move towards a disciplinary more blurry field in particular in areas like financial regulation.

Some recent very useful overviews of this area include: Shafir’s Behavioural Foundations of Public Policy is excellent; Sunstein’s lengthy “Empirically-Informed Regulation” provides a strong overview; Nudge is obviously important; a recent paper by Brigitte Madrian outlines the behavioural approach to policy; this excellent short paper by Beshears et al makes the case for the limitation of revealed preferences and the need for other mechanisms; one of the researchers in our group has put together a data-base of studies employing what can loosely be called “Nudges” in various areas of policy; Publications of the Behavioural Insights Team in the Cabinet Office are available here;  I have also put together a fairly detailed reading list on behavioural economics and public policy, including legal and ethical issues; The Brookings Institute publication “Policy and Choice: Public Finance through the lense of behavioural economics” is one of the best available introductions to this area.

In terms of why Irish policy-makers should care about this area, below is not intended to be exhaustive but is an attempt to summarise the main areas.

1. The use of “nudges” to encourage saving is the most developed behavioural policy literature. This has reached national policy significance in the roll-out of pension auto-enrolment in the UK. The Irish pension framework  was to see the entire private sector begin to be auto-enrolled in 2014 but subject to an economic recovery that has not yet materialised sufficiently. The psychology behind how people react to default settings in pensions is very interesting with a lot of opportunities and threats, among the latter the possibility that people will anchor too much to the default contribution and under-save as well as the possibility that naive consumers will simply be ripped off by providers who can charge higher fees with this less savvy group.

2. The role of behavioural science in financial regulation is a key question. The Financial Conduct Authority has been exploring this area actively. This excellent FCA occasional paper examines the potential implications of behavioural economics for financial regulation. In the US context, this very interesting report by Barr, Mullainathan and Shafir from 2008 outlines a new approach to consumer regulation based partly on the notion of “sticky defaults” whereby firms would be required to default people into the most desirable option based on their characteristics and only move them if they make choices following being provided with clear information. Such models are discussed in relation to two markets fraught with behavioural bias and consumer exploitation, namely credit cards and mortgages. The document also sets out proposals for changing the incentives of brokers.

As noted in another post, this literature is leading to a lot of very interesting questions for financial regulation that are hard to ask in a neo-classical setting. Below are some examples but obviously a small subset.

Should credit card variable and teaser rates be banned or at least taken out of the regular offers made to consumers?

Should mortgage providers be forced to disclose better deals available to their customers?

Should pay-day lenders be granted full access to the Irish market? If so, how do you regulate them?

Should auto-enrolment proceed in Ireland, what provisions should be put in place so that companies do not exploit naïve consumers by charging fees well in excess of regular rates?

Do behavioural biases prevent annuities markets from functioning optimally?

3. The implications of behavioural science for the design of welfare and taxation policies is another active area with applications across the Irish policy sphere in everything from structuring environmental taxes to design of incentive systems to encourage employment. Cass Sunstein, who is one of the main figures in this area, recently released a new book called “Simpler: The Future of Government“. It outlines an approach to government that emphasises making regulations, laws and taxes less confusing and more robust.

4. The search for alternative measures of welfare and social progress is a big concern of the emerging literature (see summary and readings from recent conference on this). The Stiglitz-Sen commission is becoming a standard reference on this topic and it is pretty comprehensive. Understanding how we go from the empirical literature in this area into meaningful indicators is an important direction for this literature. As well as interest in measuring well-being, there is growing interest in the bidirectionality of well-being and economic activity with a lot of recent work looking at impact of mental health in particular on economic functioning. (See Layard: Mental Health: The Frontier of Labour Economics). Related to this, an increasing literature has been examining the economic importance of ensuring good child mental health. This literature is helping us to understand better the interplay between poor child mental health and later economic outcomes. A recent PNAS paperby Goodman, Joyce and Smith gives a good indication of the type of research being conducted in this area. This is an extremely important area of research at the interface of psychology and economics.

5. A lot of recent research has begun to examine more closely the mechanics of what happens during job search from a more psychological perspective. Some of this research is explained in accessible form in this Brookings Institute publication. There is no question that traditional labour supply models are not a complete guide for understanding the behaviour of people who have been laid off and the literature on job activation needs badly more cross-disciplinary work to understand what is shaping behaviour and what environmental changes people might respond to.

6.  James Heckman and colleagues have been working on a large programme to integrate personality psychology and a theory of human development into economics. This is extremely important in terms of providing a theoretical and empirical basis for allocation of spending in health and education. Many of these papers are available on Heckman’s IDEAS webpage. Colleagues in Geary are involved in a collaboration looking at early childhood development. Some of these ideas are presented in accessible form on this website.

7. Prompted by Frank Barry in the comments, this paper by Peter Lunn at ESRI is a good overview of potential behavioural factors in the banking crisis. He has also published a number of other papers relevant to the above points (available here).

There are clearly several empirical, ethical and legal issues with the development of this agenda across all of these areas. The enthusiasm for randomised controlled trials in this area clearly has to be tempered with an awareness of their limitations (e.g. here). Furthermore, the extent to which interest-groups constrain the types of policies that emerge will be interesting to observe.

Along with colleagues, I have organised an annual workshop on economics/psychology in Ireland and it will take place again on October 31st in the Geary Institute (sign-up page here). Anyone interested in this area is welcome to attend.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

On 18th September, Scottish residents will vote on the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?“.

There has obviously been a vociferous debate in Scotland on the pros and cons of both options. As well as national identity arguments, the Yes campaign has pointed to such advantages as being able to set an independent defence policy, more competitive business taxation policies, fairer social welfare policies, retaining universality of policies such as personal care and student fees and many others (see details of the case for Independence here). The No campaign, in particular, has highlighted the benefits of being part of a larger union of countries and the risks involved in transition including potential for a lengthy readmission process to the EU and NATO, prolonged currency uncertainty, loss of shared institutions and so on (See the Better Together website).

Prof John Curtice has been keeping track of all opinion polls on the issue on this website

At present, the favoured outcome from pollsters and bookies is a No vote. I have co-authored a couple of reports on the potential for risk aversion to be playing one key role in the decision (here here and here).

I am opening this thread for people who want to comment on the referendum perhaps in particular the relevance of the last 100 years or so of Irish experience for Scotland.

Survey on Economy in Ireland

Seamus Power, a PhD student at the University of Chicago, is conducting a short survey on the economic situation in Ireland. The link is here if you are willing to fill it out. There is also an email address for the study if you have questions or comments.

“You will be asked to read a very short narrative and asked some questions based on it. Participation is voluntary and is expected to take 5 minutes.”

One day conference on Economics and Psychology

The seventh annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology, co-organised by researchers from UCD, ESRI and NUIM, will be held on October 31st in the UCD Geary Institute. 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 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. Programmes from the previous six events are here. Abstracts (200-500 words) should be submitted before September 30th. Suggestions or questions please send to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk

Betting Odds and Election Outcomes

My colleague David Bell has a short paper on how opinion polls and gambling odds are predicting the outcome of the Scottish Referendum. He notes there are a number of potential limitations in using odds as unbiased predictors of outcomes particularly if markets are very thin. There is also obviously a good literature on prediction markets more generally and their relation to the Efficient Markets Hypothesis (see, for example, Robin Hanson’s excellent blogposts on this). With all that in mind, it was tempting to see what odds are available for the next general election in Ireland. One prominent alliteratively named firm has odds for the next general election as being (as of 5pm 29th May): FF/FG coalition 5/6; FG/Lab coalition 7/2; FF/SF coalition 6/1 and so on. This seems pretty consistent with other firms. Would be interested in hearing what people make of this.

White paper on universal health insurance

I am a few days late on this but the government White paper on Universal Health Insurance is an important document and worth a thread here. The Irish Times have a summary here.

Addendum:

Some links that might be helpful

The White Paper itself:
http://health.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/White-Paper-Final-version-1-April-2014.pdf

Newspaper articles:

Here is a basic article from the Irish Times giving the details of the white paper:
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/universal-health-insurance-what-is-it-all-about-1.1747201

Column by Muiris Houston arguing that it will never be implemented:
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/six-reasons-why-the-universal-health-care-plan-is-likely-to-fail-1.1749314

Piece by Billy Kelleher on the cost of universal health insurance:
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/universal-health-insurance-will-drive-up-costs-for-many-1.1702639

Irish Independent article on opposition to the proposal:
http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/health/opposition-grows-to-plan-for-universal-healthcare-30161443.html

Paul Cullen in the Irish Times: Dutch health insurance costing 23.5% of income
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/dutch-health-insurance-costing-23-5-of-income-1.1752380

Universal Healthcare: Trick or Treat? (www.irishhealth.com) by Catherine Wilkinson and Declan Brennan:
http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=19208

Article from http://www.thejournal.ie where GPs argue that they were not adequately consulted:
http://www.thejournal.ie/gps-say-they-were-not-adequately-consulted-universal-health-insurance-paper-1394547-Apr2014/

Fianna Fáil opposition:
http://www.thejournal.ie/micheal-martin-fianna-fail-ard-fheis-speech-1376437-Mar2014/

Article from http://www.thejournal.ie on opposition from health workers:
http://www.thejournal.ie/uhi-impact-groups-gps-1395368-Apr2014/

Journal articles:

Briggs, A. (2013). How changes to Irish healthcare financing are affecting universal health coverage. Health Policy, Volume 113, Issue 1 , Pages 45-49.
http://www.healthpolicyjrnl.com/article/S0168-8510(13)00211-X/abstract

McKee et al (2013). Universal Health Coverage: A Quest for All Countries But under Threat in Some.Value in Health (Elsevier Science). Supplement, Vol. 16 Issue s1, pS39-S45.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1098301512041526

Behavioural Economics and Regulation

I have blogged before on the potential applications of behavioural economics to public policy in Ireland. A lot of attention has been given to policies that change individual behaviour in potentially welfare promoting directions (See Tim Harford’s summary of this in the FT). An interesting question is the implications of moving to a model of consumers with bounded rationality and self-control for regulation and competition policy. A number of recent documents in the UK and US are relevant for this.

This excellent FCA occasional paper examines the potential implications of behavioural economics for financial regulation. It should be noted that “nudging” is a subset of the policies that might follow behavioural market tests. Many of the potential policies discussed in this document are hard interventions rather than soft nudges. They also extend across regulators. For example, on page 45 they outline recent moves by Ofcom to ban autorenewal of internet contracts and OFT to ban certain types of gym membership contracts.

In some senses a more radical document by Barr, Mullainathan and Shafir from 2008 outlines a new approach to consumer regulation based partly on the notion of “sticky defaults” whereby firms would be required to default people into the most desirable option based on their characteristics and only move them if they make choices following being provided with clear information. Such models are discussed in relation to two markets fraught with behavioural bias and consumer exploitation, namely credit cards and mortgages. The document also sets out proposals for changing the incentives of brokers.

Far from the collection of isolated “nudges” that forms much of the public debate around behavioural economics, what has unfolded in recent years is a body of theoretical and empirical work that simply gives better predictions and foundations for regulation than what preceded. There are clearly many insights in this literature that have implications for Irish regulators and are worth debating further.

Examples of the applied questions raised by the recent literature include:

Should credit card variable and teaser rates be banned or at least taken out of the regular offers made to consumers?

Should mortgage providers be forced to disclose better deals available to their customers?

Should pay-day lenders be granted full access to the Irish market? If so, how do you regulate them?

Should autoenrolment proceed in Ireland, what provisions should be put in place so that companies do not exploit naïve consumers by charging fees well in excess of regular rates?

Do behavioural biases prevent annuities markets from functioning optimally?

Clearly, many of the above questions are more than just empirical questions or issues of economic theory. They also relate to political issues and wider issues of freedom of choice. Policies such as pension autoenrolment have proved quite popular as they are, in some sense, a win-win in encouraging savings among non-traditional savers and providing extra customers for financial providers. However many of the above policies are likely to be far more contested by interest groups and it will be good to have an open debate on their merits.

Notes:

A reading list from my research blog here.

A short blogpost I prepared summarising the FCA document with some other readings on regulatory and consumer exploitation issues.

Pete Lunn at ESRI has written about policy implications in a number of documents (see recent OECD review paper here).

Economists Letter on Minimum Wages

This New York Times article discusses a recent letter signed by over 500 economists arguing against the proposed increases in minimum wages in the US.

The fact that the letter itself was initiated by a party with a vested interest has generated discussion online. I will leave people to make their own minds up on that.

More interesting is why so many economists have a firm belief that minimum wage increases are a bad thing. Aside from the toy models we present to students to introduce economic principles, where is the firm empirical evidence that would lead over 500 professionals to sign their name to something like this?

As this 1982 NBER survey shows, pretty much nothing was known empirically about the employment impact of minimum wages up to that stage despite a substantial body of theoretical work. A body of empirical work that followed generally has found no effects or even positive employment effects. The most famous paper directly estimating minimum wage effects on unemployment is this Card and Krueger AER paper that finds positive employment effects. It has been cited over 1400 times and debated over and again. Another highly cited UK study finds no adverse employment effects.

There is no credible empirical study documenting increases in unemployment following changes in minimum wage legislation. Nor are there credible empirical studies linking temporal and spatial variation in unemployment to minimum wage legislation. Simply type “minimum wages unemployment” into google scholar and sample the papers from peer-reviewed journals that come up. You will find some papers showing that minimum wage effects on unemployment result from highly stylised theoretical models but no papers in high-level peer reviewed journals showing a clear negative aggregate employment effect. Please feel free to link to some credible empirical evidence in the comments if you think I am overdoing the case. Here, for example, is a meta-analysis of UK studies finding no employment effect. With the empirical literature in mind, another group of economists have signed a letter in support of minimum wage increases.

Obviously people outside of economics will cite this as another case of economists not being able to agree. But the difference is the second group can point to empirical evidence. It is baffling as to where the first group derive their confidence from.

Three Year Postdoctoral Position Economics of Higher Education

Below from Brian Lucey:

Along with colleagues in the TCD library and the Long Room Hub, I have been awarded a Irish Research Council grant. Part of the funding is for a postdoc for three years. The project is  called TIONCHAR : The Impact On National Capacity of Higher Education And Research

Salary will be in the region of €40k per annum. This post is available for an immediate start. The postdoc will work with an interdisciplinary team on a series of projects around an economic impact analysis of the efficiency and impact of the higher education system in Ireland.  Candidates should hold a PhD, ideally in economics or policy analysis. They must have some experience of I-O modelling and of multiplier estimation. An understanding of modern higher education systems, bibliometrics and economic growth models is also highly desirable. Applications will be accepted until 31 Jan 2014. Applications should include a covering letter explaining why you feel you fit the post particulars, a CV and details of two referees. Please email applications or queries on the project to either Brianmlucey@gmail.com or Charles.Larkin@gmail.com

Some further particulars are available for download here : TIONCHAR Briefing

Jan 31st Conference on Economic Policy

On January 31st 2014, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the Department of Economics at the University of Limerick (UL) and the Geary Institute at UCD are hosting a conference on Irish economy policy at the Institute of Bankers.

The conference will explore current issues in economic policy in key areas:  Industrial Relations, Housing Debt, Banking, Fiscal Policy, Migration and the teaching of Economics. The outline programme is set out below.

The conference aims to provide a forum for discussion of new ideas on the conduct of Irish economic policy, including the extent to which economics and related disciplines can make a greater contribution to the conduct of economic policy in Ireland, and the extent to which policy can be designed more effectively. The speakers and chairs come from a range of institutions and disciplines and there also be online access to presentations to ensure to enable debate through blogs and twitter.  There will be a registration charge of €20. There is no charge for student participants. Coffee will be provided mid-morning and there will be a break at 12.45 to enable participants to take lunch.

Registration will open early in the New Year.

Irish Economic Policy Conference 2014

ESRI-DEW-UL-UCD Geary

Theme:           Economic Policy after the Bailout

Venue: The Institute of Bankers

Date: 31st January 2013

Programme

Session 1         9:30 – 10:50

1A.       The Impact of the Crisis on Industrial Relations

Chair:  TBC

Kieran Mulvey (DJEI)

Shay Cody (Impact)

Michelle O’Sullivan/Tom Turner (UL)

1B.       Economics: Teaching and Practice

Chair: Ronan Gallagher(DPER)

Brian Lucey (TCD): Economics and Finance Education Before and After the Crash

Liam Delaney (Stirling): Graduate Economics Education

Third Speaker TBC

Coffee

Session 2         11:20 – 1:00

2A.       Migration and the Labour Market

Chair: Philip O’Connell(UCD)

Piaras MacÉinri (UCC)

Peter Muhlau (TCD)

Alan Barrett/Irene Mosca (TCD)

2B.       Debt and Default

Chair:  Fiona Muldoon (CBI)

Greg Connor (NUIM)

Ronan Lyons (TCD)

Third Speaker TBC

Session 3         2:10 – 3:30

3A.       Health and Recovery

Chair: TBC

David Madden (UCD)

Charles Normand/Anne Nolan (TCD/ESRI)

Paul Gorecki (ESRI)

3B.       Fiscal Policy

Chair: Stephen Kinsella (UL)

Seamus Coffey (UCC): “The continuing constraints on Irish fiscal policy”

Diarmuid Smyth (IFAC)

Third speaker TBC

Coffee

Session 4         3:50 – 5:00

Plenary Session: Future of Banking

Irish Economic Policy Conference 2014

Irish Economic Policy Conference 2014

ESRI-DEW-UL-UCD Geary

Theme: Economic Policy after the Bailout

Venue: The Institute of Bankers

Date: 31st January 2013

The conference aims to provide a forum for discussion of new ideas on the conduct of Irish economic policy, including the extent to which economics and related disciplines can make a greater contribution to the conduct of economic policy in Ireland, and the extent to which policy can be designed more effectively. The speakers and chairs come from a range of institutions and disciplines and there also be online access to presentations to ensure to enable debate through blogs and twitter.  There will be a registration charge of €20. There is no charge for student participants. Coffee will be provided mid-morning and there will be a break at 12.45 to enable participants to take lunch.

Programme

9:15 – 10:45: Plenary: The Impact of the Crisis on Industrial Relations

Chair:  Aedín Doris (NUI Maynooth)

· Kieran Mulvey (Labour Relations Commission) Prospects for Pay and Industrial Relations in the Irish Economy

· Shay Cody (IMPACT Trade Union) The impact of the crisis on industrial relations – a public service focus”

· Michelle O’Sullivan/Tom Turner (University of Limerick) The Crisis and Implications for Precarious Employment’”

10.45-11.15: Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:45:  2A. Migration and the Labour Market

Chair:  Philip O’Connell (UCD Geary Institute)

· Piaras MacÉinrí (UCC) ‘Beyond the choice v constraint debate: some key findings from a recent representative survey on emigration’

· Peter Muhlau (TCD) Social ties and the labour market integration of Polish migrants in Ireland and Germany”

· Alan Barrett (ESRI & TCD) and Irene Mosca (TCD) “The impact of an adult child’s emigration on the mental health of an older parent”

2B. Economics: Teaching and Practice

Chair: Ronan Gallagher (Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform)

· Brian Lucey (TCD): “Finance Education Before and After the Crash”

· Liam Delaney (Stirling): “Graduate Economics Education”

· Jeffrey Egan (McGraw-Hill Education) “The commercial interest in Third Level Education”

12:45 – 1:45: Lunch Break

1:45 – 3:15: 3A. Health and Recovery

Chair: Alex White, TD, Minister of State

· David Madden (UCD) “Health and Wealth on the Roller-Coaster: Ireland 2003-2011”

· Charles Normand TCD) and Anne Nolan (TCD & ESRI) “The impact of the economic crisis on health and the health system in Ireland”

· Paul Gorecki (ESRI) ‘Pricing Pharmaceuticals: Has Public Policy Delivered?”

3B. Fiscal Policy

Chair: Stephen Kinsella (UL)

· Seamus Coffey (UCC) “The continuing constraints on Irish fiscal policy”

· Diarmuid Smyth (IFAC) ‘IFAC: Formative years and the future’

· Rory O’Farrell, (NERI) “Supplying solutions in demanding times: the effects of various fiscal measures”

3:15 – 3:30: Coffee Break

3:30 – 5:00: Plenary: Debt, Default and Banking System Design

Chair: Fiona Muldoon (Central Bank of Ireland)

· Greg Connor (NUI Maynooth) “An Economist’s Perspective on the Quality of Irish Bank Assets”

· Kieran McQuinn and Yvonne McCarthy (Central Bank of Ireland) “Credit conditions in a boom and bust property market”

· Colm McCarthy “Designing a Banking System for Economic Recovery”

· Ronan Lyons (TCD) “Household expectations and the housing market: from bust to boom”

One day economics and psychology conference

The 6th in the series of conferences on economics and psychology in Ireland will take place on November 29th in Maynooth co-organised by Liam Delaney (Stirling) and Richard Roche (NUIM). The previous five (details here) have been very energetic workshops including keynote talks from John O’Doherty (Caltech), Arie Kapteyn (RAND now USC), David Laibson (Harvard), David Halpern (UK Cabinet Office) and Robert Sugden (East Anglia). The provisional programme for the 29th November event is available on this link and it will be finalised in the coming weeks. The event will take place in the Glenroyal hotel which is adjacent to the Maynooth campus.  Directions and any other details will be sent to the RSVP list. Some reading lists from previous posts are available here.

If you wish to attend please sign up here. Students interested in the overlap of economics and psychology are welcome.
https://stir.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9AD17qwzK5qgGZT

One-day conference on economics and psychology

The sixth annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 25th in NUI Maynooth. 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 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. Programmes from the previous five are here. Abstracts (200-500 words) should be submitted before September 30th. Suggestions or questions please send to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk

Behavioural Economics and Public Policy

I have posted a few times on the implications of the emerging literature on behavioural economics and public policy for Irish policy. Some readings from a previous post are available here and three others posts with links are available here. For those interested in this area, the following links may be of interest:

(i) Cass Sunstein, who is one of the main figures in this area, recently released a new book called “Simpler: The Future of Government“. It outlines an approach to government that emphasises making regulations, laws and taxes less confusing and more robust. It is partly based on academic work and partly on his time as a senior regulator in the Obama administration. It follows on from some of the ideas in the work Nudge that he co-authored with Richard Thaler. I recommend this book to anyone involved in designing regulation, taxation and policy. It is short and written clearly by someone with experience both as a high-profile academic and a senior policy-maker.

(ii) The US have now set up a version of the UK Behavioural Insights team. Details of that are here.

(iii) One of the researchers in our group has put together a data-base of studies employing what can loosely be called “Nudges” in various areas of policy. He has currently summarised 80 studies and adds to them every week or so. There are some very interesting examples across many areas of policy.

(iv) It is in the list in one of the previous links but the book I most recommend for a wide overview on behavioural science perspectives on policy is Shafir’s “Behavioural Foundations of Public Policy“. A bit heavy (in both senses of the word) if you are looking for beach-reading but I can’t recommend it more highly to people wanting a grounding in this area.

(v) I have also put together a fairly detailed reading list on behavioural economics and public policy, including legal and ethical issues.

(vi) Apologies for blatant plug but we have started our own graduate programme in this area. Queries welcome.

(vii) Added from the comments, Kevin Denny has a list of behavioural economics resources

Finally, would be interested in people’s thoughts on this agenda in the area of Irish public policy. Are there areas where changing of default options could bring defined improvements in public services? Are there environmental changes in areas like taxation, education, health, waste management that could be enacted to improve outcomes in these areas? What areas of public policy would most benefit from reducing complexity of rules and regulations? And on the other hand, are these types of policies a distraction from real macroeconomic and social issues? How much should economics education take on board new models emerging from behavioural economics?

Scottish Constitution Blog

David Bell in Stirling has recently launched a blog on economic and policy issues surrounding the Scottish Constitutional debate. A link to the blog is here and it is already turning into a very useful source of information and insight on the key issue dominating Scottish public debate at present. There is obviously quite a lot of discussion ongoing about the lessons to be learned from the Irish experience including yesterday’s post on what would happen to national debt in a post-independence environment. Would be interested in people’s views on how Irish experiences more generally across policy domains should impact on the Scottish debate.

Behavioural Economics Readings

There will be an event in the ESRI on November 30th on behavioural economics and public policy, co-organised by ESRI and the UCD Geary Institute. Keynote speakers are Robert Sugden, Professor of Economics at University of East Anglia and David Halpern, head of the behavioural insights team at the Cabinet Office. Details of how to register for the keynote sessions are on the ESRI website here (though the event is fully subscribed so just a waiting list for now).  There will be a full day of talks prior to this and details of that programme are here.

My main purpose with this post is to point to some literature. People attending might be interested in some of the following links and reading:

Russell Sage Foundation reading list on behavioural economics here

Publications of the Behavioural Insights Team in the Cabinet Office are available here

The Chicago Law Review piece “Empirically Informed Regulation” by Cass Sunstein is a detailed account of the ideas and applications in this area over the last number of years.

The Brookings Institute publication “Policy and Choice: Public Finance through the lense of behavioural economics” is one of the best available introductions to this area.

New book on behavioral foundations of public policy edited by Eldar Shafir will likely be a required text in this area in the future. It covers many areas of policy and the behavioural science underpinning them.

Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein is a very influential account of the libertarian paternalism idea of how behavioural economics should be applied

Blanchflower on academic economics during the crisis

Danny Blanchflower has a forthcoming book chapter critical of the role of academic economists during the crisis. I post it here for debate rather than as an endorsement of everything in it. An illustrative quote is below.

“I am greatly concerned that the economics profession has had so little involvement in the major issues of the day.  That has resulted, in my view in some of the worst economic policy errors in a generation.  Economists need to focus on real policy questions rather than simply on publishing trivial technical extensions in academic journal.  I suspect that will also mean a movement away from theoretical papers with no data to papers that involve empirical testing and the search for patterns in the data.”

Irish Society of New Economists Conference

The programme for this year’s event, being organised and hosted in UCC, is available on this link.  Details below or on the website.

University College Cork‘s (UCC) School of Economics are pleased to host the Irish Society of New Economists (ISNE) 9th annual conference.

The conference will take place on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th of August, 2012.

If you wish to contact the local organising committee they can be contacted at isne2012@gmail.com.

The ISNE was formed to encourage research, information and social links among economists at the early stages of their careers in Ireland and Europe. The annual conference is intended for Masters, PhD students, and young professionals in the early stages of research. Eligibility to present has nothing to do with age. We strongly encourage those working on economics-related research in all settings to present.

The 2012 ISNE meeting will feature the work and findings of scholars in economics, econometrics and related fields, and will provide an excellent opportunity to present your own research results and work in progress.

We would encourage those who are participating in the conference or those who can not attend the conference this year to join the ISNE 2012 conference Linkedin group.  This will allow a forum for discussion and announcements relating to the conference.  To join the Linkedin group please simply click the Linkedin tab below. Linkedin

We look forward to meeting you in Cork in 2012.

The Local Organising Committee:

Robbie Butler (Lecturer in Economics UCC)
David Butler (Lecturer in Economics UCC)
Justin Doran (Lecturer in Economics UCC)”

Coursera and Online Education

I looked today at the Coursera list of upcoming courses. Coursera, from their own description, are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.”  They are the most prominent of a number of recent initiatives to make very high quality education available to large online audiences (see e.g. the recent Harvard-MIT edx initiative).

I post this for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, many of the 111 currently listed upcoming courses will be of interest to readers of this blog. There are several courses in Economics including: Game Theory, Microeconomics, Behavioural Economics (taught by Dan Ariely) and several others. They are all free and all taught by well-known Professors in the field. Some even provide certificates of completion, homework assignments, quizzes and exams.

The second reason for posting is to ask what this implies for traditional higher education. There is clearly one school of thought that says the game is up for on-campus education now that the technology for doing this online has come to the point where Coursera can make flexible courses available free for millions of people. And yet, there is no sense yet of a flight from traditional universities and models of delivering higher education. There are so many barriers between making great courses available online and creating full programmes that are validated, credible in terms of assessment and desirable for students in terms of providing a full experience of education, including being able to work with peers, build a network, receive in-person instruction and so on. None of these seem insurmountable so one scenario might be a fully online university environment.  Tyler Cowen summarises a discussion among a number of people who have been debating this issue in the US. He comes down on a viewpoint I share  (largely from intuition as we really dont have anyway of knowing yet) that hybrid models will begin to proliferate soon merging online instruction with on-campus instruction.

Addendum: Berkeley joins Edx. List of courses here.

Economics and Psychology One-Day Conference

The fifth annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 30th. 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 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. Suggestions or questions please send to Liam.Delaney@stir.ac.uk and/or Pete.Lunn@esri.ie

Irish Economy Conference: Preliminary Notice

The podcasts and presentations from last year’s Irish Economy conference are available here. This will be run again in January 2013. The general reaction to the 2012 session was positive and we think it has a useful function and should be retained as an annual event held in January.  I wanted to post now to give time for discussion and suggestions for sessions. The layout will be similar to last year, with a potential for three parallel sessions depending on amount of quality speakers that are available. Comments on this blog directly influenced last year’s session so this is a good place and time to make general comments if people are interested in shaping the format and line-up. Alternatively, either me or Stephan Kinsella can be contacted with suggestions. Or use #ieconf as a hashtag on twitter

Orla Doyle Barrington Lecture

(from email by Sean Lyons)

A meeting of the Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland will take place on Wednesday, 18th April 2012, starting at 6:00 pm, in the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. Dr Orla Doyle (UCD School of Economics and Geary Institute) will present a paper titled Breaking the Cycle of Deprivation: An Experimental Evaluation of an Early Childhood Intervention.

The abstract is set out below and a draft of the paper is available here.

Abstract:
Deprivation early in life has multiple long term consequences for both the individual and society. An increasing body of evidence finds that targeted, early interventions aimed at at-risk children and their families can reduce socioeconomic inequalities in children’s skills and capabilities. This paper describes a randomised control trial (RCT) evaluation of a five-year preventative programme which aims to improve the school readiness skills of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. The Preparing for Life (PFL) programme is one of the first studies in Ireland to use random assignment to experimentally modify the environment of high risk families and track its impact over time. This paper describes the design and motivation for the study, the randomisation procedure adopted and the baseline data collected. Using Monte Carlo permutation testing, it finds that the randomisation procedure was successful as there are no systematic differences between the treatment and control groups at baseline. This indicates that future analysis of treatment effects over the course of the five year evaluation can be causally attributed to the programme and used to determine the impact of Preparing for Life on children’s school readiness skills.