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Rail fares rise pegged to inflation

Friday, December 05, 2014

Every so often I read an article and start to tot up the number of economic concepts being covered in just a few words.  This occurred to me again this morning when reading this BBC news article on train fare rises.  Train fares are pegged to July's inflation rate and, as inflation is quite low at the moment, this means that the average rise of 2.2% is also relatively low (although regular train users may still feel aggrieved).

Have a read yourself and see how many concepts crop up or give them same exercise to your A2 students.  My thoughts are below:

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Teaching resource to introduce budget cuts to Local Government Spending

Monday, December 01, 2014

If you're looking at government intervention to correct market failure then you may find this 5 minute resource of value.  Using statistics compiled from Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, highlighted in this article, it asks students to predict which local government budget areas will see the largest cuts by 2018.

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Local Government Association calls for change in rules on allowing term-time holidays

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Local Government Association (which represents local councils in the UK) have joined the debate about term time holidays for pupils this week.  They argue that current rules banning term time holidays or imposing fines on those families who take such breaks do not recognise the complexities of modern families and also prevent poorer families from affording vacations that are invariably dearer during the holiday period.

It struck me whilst reading one of the reports that the suggested policy is to allow head teachers that most quantifiable of options, 'common sense', to make decisions on a case-by-case basis would be the sort of argument that would make me scream if a student wrote it in an assessment answer.  Economics students, unlike Local Government officials, need to take a much more analytic approach to this question!

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Free nursery places for 3 year olds appears to have no impact - an example of Government Failure?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reports out over the last couple of days suggest that government spending on free nursery places for 3 year olds since 1998 has not produced any valuable educational or economic outcome. The policy was introduced as part of a series of reforms introduced by Tony Blair when he came to power in 1997. The Blair Government saw it as a method of reducing the differentials between educational attainment of poorer and wealthier sections of society and promoting a speedier return to work for some mothers.

Researchers studying the impact of the policy during the 2002 to 2007 time period, where spending on the policy amounted to more than £7bn found that the education received at age 3 had some impact on attainment at age 5 but any improvements were lost by age 11. The research suggested that the policy had only a minor impact on enabling more women to return to work earlier. Also, there is evidence that 5 out of 6 users of the free place would have gone to a paid-for equivalent at age 3 anyway.

So, does this offer us a good example of government failure in economic and social policy?

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Is the real measure of a society’s prosperity the availability of solutions to human problems?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Eric Beinhocker and Nick Hanauer have published a thought-provoking article in McKinsey Quarterly, 'Capitalism Redefined'. Their argument is that, while it may be true to suggest that, over the last two centuries, capitalism has been responsible for our economic growth and prosperity, we do not correctly understand why and how it has done that. 

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Local Schools policy drives inequality in the UK

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I love a story that really can resonate with students and get them 'irked'.  It struck me yesterday that reading about a recent Bristol University research paper that claims that school admission policies lead to greater inequality might strike a chord with some young people.

The study suggests that the common policy in the UK of prioritizing admission places in primary and secondary schools based upon how close a student lives to that school continues a cycle of inequality.  The argument is that, wealthier people are more able to afford to move to areas with higher performing schools and so are more inclined to do so.  People without that facility have less choice in where to send their children and may have to stick with local schools despite their relative poor performance.  So the cycle continues ..... poorer people receive a poorer quality education and are therefore less equipped to get the necessary qualifications to earn higher wages.

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Is it helpful to talk about ‘relative poverty’ in the UK?

Friday, October 03, 2014

Economics examiners like you to be able to differentiate between two types of poverty. We come out with statements like “of course you don’t get absolute poverty in Britain”. But I’ve just been reminded that it’s not so long ago that some people in the UK lived a very threadbare existence.  Even today there are pockets of shocking deprivation.

When the issue of poverty crops up in the UK, we tend to be referring to relative poverty.  But might there be good reasons to stop using that term?

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Where’s the best place to live?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Will the best place to live - as identified by the Economist newspaper - be found in the country with the highest GDP per capita?

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International Competitiveness - a new ‘Higher or Lower’ game!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Download this engaging teaching resource to test student awareness of the international competitiveness rankings!

You may have already seen Geoff's blog on the newly released International Competitiveness Index.  The World Economic Forum annually release its table of competitiveness using a variety of data measures including economic performance, quality of education and labour efficiency.  The UK has moved up to 9th in the World.

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Would GDP fall if HMS Queen Elizabeth sinks?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I’m always on the lookout for GDP stories – what is GDP, how is it measured, and what are the problems of using GDP to measure social progress, standard of living and sustainability.

Big changes coming to the national accounts next month, which means that GDP will be calculated slightly differently.

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2014 HDI Report focuses on Vulnerability

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Each year the Human Development Report published by the United Nations gives a special focus on a particular issue related to development. In 2014 that issue is vulnerability.

To quote from the opening of the report:

"Real progress on human development, then, is not only a matter of enlarging people’s critical choices and their ability to be educated, be healthy, have a reasonable standard of living and feel safe. It is also a matter of how secure these achievements are and whether conditions are sufficient for sustained human development. An account of progress in human development is incomplete without exploring and assessing vulnerability."

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The ‘Good Country Index’ adds to the economic progress debate

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I am often writing blogs on the debate over the limitations of GDP as a measure of economic and social progress, most recently with coverage of the Social Progress Index. Here’s another approach, the Good Country Index. It's a deceptively simple concept, yet quite powerful.

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Development Economics: Indonesia Has Developed, But Not Everyone Feels It

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Although Indonesia has experienced significant growth and development, not everyone has benefitted. This short video from the World Bank offers a personal story. Followed by up a July 2014 blog from BBC Global Business on the rise of the wealth elite in Indonesia.

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2014 World Cup Finalists - Human and Economic Development Indicators

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Drawing on data from the 2013 Human Development Report, here are the 24 countries in the 2014 World Cup ranked according to the Human Development Scores

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The Value of Drugs and Prostitution

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just increased the size of the British economy by nearly £10 billion, a figure equivalent to around 0.7 per cent of the economy as a whole. George Osborn has not waved a magic wand. We have not suddenly become more productive. The reason is that, for the first time, estimates of the value added by drugs and prostitution have been included. These activities are included in an economic sector called ‘miscellaneous goods and services’, which, as an indicator of its diversity, already contains things like life assurance and post office charges.

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Unit 2 Macro: Sex and Drugs included in Measured UK GDP

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Office for National Statistics has, for the first time, included estimates of the impact of prostitution and illegal drugs in the national accounts. By the ONS’ reckoning they add about £10bn to the British economy. The assumptions used in making the calculations have been the subject of some criticism. I have summarised below the assumptions behind the estimated spending / income and output effects of including prostitution:

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The link between unemployment and depression

Thursday, May 29, 2014

If you are like me, teaching unemployment starts with explanation of its causes and then moves on to its impact (before discussing possible solutions).  I've always found the 'impact' aspect relatively straight-forward; it would seem students find the concept of loss of output and its consequences fairly logical.  Discussing the long-term effects can be more difficult as young adults in full-time education may not be wholly empathetic towards the outcomes of job loss.

An interesting report came out from the Nuffield Trust recently (a copy is available from this link) about the increase in the prescription of antidepressants.  The increase from 15 million items prescribed in 1995 to 40 million items in 2012 is quite large but the report shows that the biggest jump has come during the economic downturn since 2008.  The report hypothesizes on a number of causes of this increase but does suggest a link between unemployment and the increase in prescription of antidepressants.  Perhaps it isn't a quantum leap to illustrate that there is a relationship between unemployment and depression but evidence of this nature may be valuable when making a point about the impact of unemployment (and its cost to society as a whole) in the class or as part of an exam answer.

Unit 4 Macro: Ten Years of EU Membership for Poland

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Poland's accession to the European Union. Poland was easily the largest of the ten countries that came into the EU single market a decade ago. It was an important economic and geo-political moment for a country of just under forty million inhabitants. 

The country has always traded heavily with the EU and that trade dependency has deepened over the last ten years. According to economists at HSBC, Poland is well placed to sustain strong export growth even though much of Western Europe as a whole is struggling to escape from below trend growth.

Poland has had the most stable growth of any economy in Europe in recent years. It avoided a recession in the aftermath of the Global Financial crisis - helped in part by the depreciation of the Polish Zloty. The economy is the sixth biggest in Europe and in the top twenty five countries ranked by GDP. Steady progress in lifting relative incomes per capita towards the EU28 average has helped to grow the size of the middle-class consumer sector - a big opportunity for British businesses looking to invest in the country.

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Unit 2 Macro: PPP - What $1 Buys in China

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This short World Bank info-video looks at what $1 buys in China. In China, over 98 million people live on less than 6.3 yuan ($1) per day. 

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Thomas Piketty on Economic Inequality

Saturday, May 17, 2014

There has been huge interest in the new book by Thomas Piketty entitled "Capital in the 21st Century". This blog entry will link to some reviews, news articles and short videos on Piketty's ideas and policy prescriptions. In "Capital," French economist Thomas Piketty explores how wealth and the income derived from it magnifies the problems of inequality. At the heart of it is a simple equation R > G - the rate of return on capital is higher than the rate of economic growth. Naturally there is a fierce debate about the data and his methodology!

Recent news articles:

Bad maths in Piketty's capitalism critique? (BBC)

Are we living in the second gilded age? (Linda Yueh, BBC)

Articles on Thomas Piketty from the Guardian

Review of "Capitalism in the Twenty First Century"(The Independent)

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Forget the hype- Capitalism has made the world a more equal place

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Metropolitan liberals love to be able to criticise Western society. Recently, their lives have been brightened by the extensive discussion on the rise in inequality since the 1970s, especially in the Anglo-Saxon economies. There is a danger that this essentially anti-capitalist narrative will come to dominate the media, paving the way for increased regulation and the sorts of failed statist interventions in the economy which were a consistent theme in British political economy for nearly four decades after the Second World War.

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UK Economy: The Economics of Falling Real Wages

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The prospects of significant wage increases for typical UK workers are bleak, according to Professors David Blanchflower and Stephen Machin writing in the Spring 2014 issue of CentrePiece magazine from the London School of Economics.

It is quite clear that the economy is still well below full employment and there is a large amount of slack in the labour market, they say. There is little evidence of widespread skill shortages, which would push up wages; and public sector pay freezes with continuing redundancies continue to push down on workers’ bargaining power.

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UK Income and Wealth Inequality - A New Film

Income and wealth inequality in the UK are higher than most people think they are and higher than they think they should be. These are among the messages of a new online infographics film:

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China about to overtake USA as world’s largest economy

New data suggests that China will soon overtake the United States with the largest GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity. This short Financial Times video from Chris Giles looks at the new data which are being driven by fresh estimates of what money can buy - i.e. the volume of goods and services that are produced in different countries and what one dollar can buy in one country compared to another. The data finds that poorer countries are cheaper than economists thought they were and richer countries are more expensive.

China barely breaks into the top one hundred of the countries of the world in terms of GDP per capita (PPP) - it is a large country but not rich!

The 2011 gross domestic product (GDP) of the European Union, the United States and China together accounted for half of the world GDP in 2011. In 2011, the GDP of the 28-nations EU represented 18.6 percent of the world's GDP, expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPP). It was followed by the United States with a share of 17.1 percent and China with 14.9 percent.

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Nigeria becomes the biggest economy in Africa after GDP revisions

Friday, April 18, 2014

Measuring the size of an economy is difficult on so many levels. Of course, there’s always the GDP debate, which asks about the best way to measure economic and social progress. But even measuring GDP is a huge challenge. Nigeria has just experienced a vast 89% increase in GDP having ‘rebased’ its figures.

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The changing face of Government Spending - a teacher resource

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Here's a short but fun classroom starter to stimulate discussion about how the Government Spends its money.  

Based upon information from a BBC article showing how Government spending has changed since 1953, the resource asks students to separate 'blocks' representing the percentage of overall spending on each department (e.g. health, defense) into those that they think represent spending in 1953 and those that represent 2013.  Having separated the blocks, students must then re-arrange the blocks into perfect squares on the printable 'mats' provided as part of the resource.

As well as stimulating discussion about how the Government spends its money and changes in its priorities, it may provide a useful hook for getting your students to remember the proportion of spending the Government places on each of its department which they can use as evidence within their exam answers.

Click on this link to download the resource.

Click on this link to go to the original BBC article.

Unit 4 Macro: Economic Benefits of EU Membership

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Membership of the European Union (EU) has had a big positive effect on average incomes in all but one of its member countries. That is the central finding of research by Nauro Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli and Luigi Moretti, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference. They also find that the more financially developed countries have grown significantly faster after joining the EU.

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The Social Progress Index

Here's an interesting addition to the GDP debate, which has heated up a good deal over the last couple of years. Is GDP a reliable indicator of economic progress?  The Social Progress Index is another attempt at capturing more measures of development, so as to be a better guide to policy making.  It's what economist Diane Coyle calls a 'dashboard' approach to measurement.

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Financing the current account deficit

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

More on the implications of the UK’s massive current account deficit. Geoff has put together almost everything you need on the topic here, and he points out that the main implication is a net leakage from the circular flow of income, reducing AD and weakening multiplier effects.

A current account deficit is not necessarily a disaster; after all, imports are good too, sustaining our standard of living and is partly a reflection of the demand for intermediate goods our economy needs to stay efficient.

I’m going to pick up on the the statement that there is nothing wrong with a trade deficit. It simply means that a country must rely on foreign direct investment or borrowed money to make up the difference.

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Economic History: The Rising Height of the Average Man

Friday, March 28, 2014

Smaller families, improved knowledge about nutrition and hygiene, and a cleaner environment with better housing, less overcrowding and a reduction in toxic heavy industry – all of these things have contributed to the spectacular increase in the height of the average young man in Britain over the past one hundred years.

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Unit 2 Macro: Growth is Not Enough

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In this new RSA Short, Kate Raworth makes a powerful argument to look beyond economic growth alone for a true measure of prosperity and progress. Read more about Kate Raworth's work and her idea of doughnut economics by clicking this link http://www.kateraworth.com and follow her on twitter @KateRaworth 

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F585 Pre-Release Resources (and F583, F582 & F581 too)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I thought it worthwhile sharing my resources which I have been collecting for students (and teachers alike). I have been promoting them on Twitter (@Economics_KSF) through scoop.it but for those of you not on there, the link for the scoop.it boards are here:

http://www.scoop.it/u/economics-kcsf

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Paul Ormerod: Trends in Inequality: Truth and Myth

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Concern about inequalities of income and wealth is now a fashionable topic. It featured strongly in the gathering of the world’s top brass at Davos earlier this year. Much of the popular coverage of the topic gives the impression that not only is inequality at record highs, but that it is confined to the wicked Anglo-Saxon economies. 

A recent paper published by authors linked to the George Soros-funded Institute for New Economic Thinking shows very decisively that neither of these points is true.

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Life is better now – despite the crisis

Friday, March 07, 2014

Here’s a great topic for an economics debate. National income is still lower than before the financial crash. We have a ‘cost of living crisis’. Yet it’s possible to argue that life is better now than it was in 2005. How can that point be made without being laughed out of the room?

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Unit 2 Macro: National Income and the Standard of Living

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Here is a revision presentation for an AS Macro topic - measuring national income and the standard of living

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Valentine’s challenge to Comparative Advantage

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sometimes it’s worth challenging a concept that is fundamental to Economics, such as specialisation or the theory of comparative advantage (video here). This crucial theory views international trade as profitable even for a country that can produce every commodity more cheaply than any other country (an absolute advantage). According to Robert Skidelsky, the textbook example is that of a town’s best lawyer who is also its best typist. Provided that she is better at law than at typing, she should specialize in law and leave her secretary to do the typing. That way, both of their earnings will be higher. The same logic applies to countries. Each country should specialize in producing those things that it produces most efficiently, rather than producing a bit of everything, because that way its income will be higher.

Why does Skidelsky go on to challenge that view?

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Energy companies charge cash-paying customers more - market failure and Government intervention

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

If you attended the recent tutor2u revision conferences for up-coming micro-economic exams (look out for the macro workshops and combined micro and macro to come in March) you will have seen how fuel-pricing was used as an example of market failure, government intervention strategies and government failure.  

Fortunately, the energy market is a gift that keeps giving to us in the economics world (every cloud has a silver lining) as a report out today (see this link for the BBC version of the story) indicates that Parliament is about to intervene to try and stop the energy companies charging more to customers who pay by cash rather than by direct debit (£114 per year, according to the report).

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Costing the world’s problems with Bjorn Lomborg

Saturday, February 01, 2014

A great introduction to some global or development economics, looking at the world’s biggest problems, as measured by their cost to the world’s economy. There’s commentary and a good stimulus video. It will add a dimension to your introduction to global challenges, even if you’re already familiar with the basic Copenhagen Consensus idea: prioritise the world’s problems from biggest to smallest. That approach should lead to a more efficient response, given that resources – and political will – are limited.

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“We’re all middle class now”. Or should that be middle income?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

As the comedian Mark Steel once said, “anybody who says we’re all middle class now obviously hasn’t been to Wigan” (I can make that joke because my dad’s from there). One huge global cause for celebration is that the scourge of absolute poverty is in retreat. Instead we hear much more about rising inequality within nations, which is progress, of a sort. In amongst these discussions is talk of a rising new middle class (see above – link here). What might this mean?

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Capitalism: an engine for progress

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's the time of year when many commentators are going back to basics and asking if our dominant economic model - free market capitalism - is a force for good in the world.

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Put yourself in the position of a Syrian refugee

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This resource from The Guardian could offer students an excellent way of considering the negative social consequences of civil war and internal conflict.

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Fog and filthy air

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Here's another weather blog.  It's cold and atmospheric conditions are right for exceptionally severe local air pollution; smoke, micro particulates and sulphur dioxide combine into a greasy 'smog'.  The health impact is severe. People start talking about a 'killer fog' and even an 'environmental disaster'.  Thousands die over the next few days and weeks, many more face serious long term consequences.

Where am I describing?

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Britain’s position in the economic ‘league table’

Sunday, December 29, 2013

'Tis the season of making predictions about the future.  What will 2014 bring?  There has also been a lot a coverage of a study making predictions as far ahead as 2030.  

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Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK

Monday, December 09, 2013

Hopefully the UK economy will turn a corner in 2014 and return to robust growth and good health, raising living standards for some of the poorest people in the UK. It would be very odd if you hadn't reflected on the plight of the poor in the UK over the last few years, and in the build up to Christmas.

Much discussion of poverty in Economics is of a normative nature. What do we mean by poverty anyway? Isn't it all just a matter of opinion? Is poverty a lifestyle choice, picked up by people who have been given the wrong incentives by the welfare system? Perhaps it's the fault of immigrants, or greedy business, or dishonest politicians.....

Some relatively impartial data would be very welcome in this very heated debate.

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Wages and Sharing the Fruits of Economics Growth

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Employees in the UK are not being denied their fair share of economic growth, according to research by João Paulo Pessoa and Professor John Van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE. Their investigation of claims that wage growth has become ‘decoupled’ from productivity growth finds that decoupling has been overstated and cannot be used to justify redressing the balance between wages and profits.

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Unit 4 Macro: Inequality and Economic Development

Sunday, November 24, 2013

This is an updated revision presentation covering aspects of inequality and economic growth/development - it is designed for Year 13 A2 macro students

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Labour is getting a smaller and smaller slice of national income

Monday, November 11, 2013

This topic is of profound importance. It gets the heart of a fundamental economic issue: the distribution of income. When national income rises, does that extra income go into the pockets of workers or capitalists?

The answer is clear cut: labour is getting a smaller slice of the pie. How and why might that be happening, and what might be done? Here are links and summary of a couple of articles, plus a great Economist video clip.

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Hans Rosling on ‘Five ways the world is doing better than you think’

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Don't you just love the BBC website? Just as I am preparing my lessons on global Poverty and Inequality for my A2 Macro students, here is an article written by Hans Rosling about the enormous progress most countries have made in recent decades. He uses statistics to suggest that tremendous global progress has been made towards improving quality of lives in five key ways.

There is a quiz - How Much Do You Know About The World, or 'The Ignorance Test', which will make a great lesson starter.

And as a follow-up, BBC2 has an hour-long programme tonight at 21.00 (22.30 in Scotland) called Don't Panic - the truth about Population (which will be available on i-player) - the programme synopsis says

"Using state of the art 3D graphics and the timing of a stand-up comedian, world famous statistician Professor Hans Rosling presents a spectacular portrait of our rapidly changing world. With 7 billion people already on our planet we often look to the future with dread, but Rosling's message is surprisingly upbeat. Almost unnoticed we have actually begun to conquer the problems of rapid population growth and extreme poverty."


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Immigration - the Fiscal Costs and Benefits

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives. What’s more, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, they made a considerable positive net contribution to the UK’s fiscal system, and thus helped to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers.

The positive contribution is particularly evident for UK immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA – the European Union plus three small neighbours): they contributed about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the period 2001-11.

These are the central findings of a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal consequences of immigration to the UK, published today by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London.

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Unit 4 Macro: Mobile Technology and Growth in Africa

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Suyash Raj Bhandari considers some of the ways in which the rapid expansion and adoption of mobile technology in Africa can act as a spur to growth and development on the continent. We link also to some useful background video resources on this issue.

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