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Could a “Citizen’s Income” address tax and welfare problems?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Here are a couple of current UK problems. Firstly, although the economy is recovering strongly, tax receipts aren’t. Secondly, flaws in the way the welfare system operates may be creating disincentives in the labour market. Could a radical proposal: streamlining the whole welfare system by paying everyone a ‘citizen’s income’ help?

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Developing Country Case Studies e-book

Friday, August 22, 2014

At the end of last term all our year 12's were set the task of writing a short article about a different developing country. They were tasked with covering:

  • Key information- e.g. GDP, HDI, Gini coefficient, indicators of level of poverty/development
  • What factors are limiting growth & development in this country
  • How is the government and other stakeholders trying to promote growth & development in this country
  • How successful have they been so far?

I have collated all these articles together into an e-book which teachers and students studying development economics should find very useful to make use of as part of the course.

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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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Price Cap introduced for the UK Payday Loans Market

Friday, July 18, 2014

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has announced direct interventions in the market for payday loans - the high cost short term loans market which has expanded rapidly in recent years led by businesses such as Wonga. The decision is the result of a detailed assessment of the industry which had flagged up a number of market failures.

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Economists are not impressed by Piketty’s views on inequality

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The financial crisis has undoubtedly created a demand in popular culture for works which portray capitalism in a bad light, such as the recent best seller by Thomas Piketty. Piketty’s writing has gathered increasing attention from economists, and his arguments do not really bear scrutiny.

The focus of Piketty’s work is the long-run evolution of the ratio of capital to income. He claims that this is now high by historical standards, and will rise even further as the 21st century unfolds. Wealth will become more concentrated and inequality will rise inexorably even more.

The message that capitalism inevitably leads to greater inequality is one that many people want to hear. Unfortunately for them, it is wrong. Piketty assembles an impressively large amount of empirical evidence. This shows clearly that from around 1910 to 1970, inequality actually declined sharply across the West.  

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World Cup version of the Happiness Index

Monday, June 30, 2014

Now that England have made their rationally-predicted (but irrationally-disappointing) exit from the World Cup, who else are we to support? As economists, we need a rational basis on which to make that choice, from a rapidly declining set of options. Help is at hand, in the form of a new index supplied by an economist at Yale University. In a paper published last week in the New York Times, Dean Karlan suggests that we should root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness.

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Inequality: a great induction topic for A2 economics

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The varied nature of Economics means there are so many (sometimes it can seem too many) themes to explore. And priorities change. Sometimes the main issue is production (making more stuff – and how the value of that is measured). Sometimes it’s exchange (looking at how markets work). Yet distribution (often overlooked, especially when economies are booming) seems the hottest topic at the moment. Inequality tops the bestseller lists.

Here are a few tips and links for using the topic as an intro to A2 economics, great for macro, with scope for analysis and evaluation of UK government policy and approaches to development economics.

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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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RES Competition: Growth, Poverty and The Environment

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The first title in the list of six available to RES entrants is a challenging one! 

Promoting growth and fighting poverty should be the priority in the developing world, not reducing greenhouse gases.” Do you agree?

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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.

The ‘trade-off’ between work and leisure – update

Monday, May 19, 2014

If you’ve looked at labour markets, you’ll understand the basic theory: workers seek to supply more labour as wage rates rise, and the returns to work mount up. However, at some point, the marginal utility of extra leisure exceeds the marginal utility of extra income.

In other words, rich people start working less, because they can afford to. And for most of human history rich people had the most leisure, but that might be changing.

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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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Inequality in New York - Can New York bridge the income inequality gap?

Friday, May 16, 2014

A BBC news report on the widening gulf in income and wealth inequality in the United States (and New York in particular). Income inequality is now as high as it was during the worst period of the 1920s. The richest Americans now hold one fifth of all of the country's income - and the top 10% actually hold half of it.

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Labour Market: Food Industry Workers Protest Again Zero Hours and Low Pay

This Channel 4 news report looks at va growing protest movement among food industry workers campaigning against zero hours contracts and persistent low pay. Zero-hours contracts do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of employment. It has been estimated that 583,000 people, around 2% of the UK workforce, were employed on zero-hours contracts between October and December 2013. The actual figure is likely to be substantially higher than that.

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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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Explaining Inequality in the UK

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

CEP Director, John Van Reenen, explains the reasons why inequality in the UK has been rising. For more films covering aspects of economic policy we recommend you take a look at the Facebook page - Click here! https://www.facebook.com/EconFilms

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UK Income and Wealth Inequality - A New Film

Thursday, May 01, 2014

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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Inequality: The Gini Coefficient

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Gini coefficient is a commonly-used measure of income inequality that condenses the entire income distribution for a country into a single number between 0 and 1: the higher the number, the greater the degree of income inequality.

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Unit 4 Macro: Asian Growth Requires Less Inequality

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The new annual report from the Asian Development Bank outlines what developing Asia needs to promote inclusive growth in the years ahead. Governments in the region should tackle widening inequality that is keeping millions poor, by using fiscal policy to help close income and wealth gaps and promote more inclusive growth, says the theme chapter of Asian Development Outlook 2014. The importance of equity in shaping future growth and development continues to gain momentum across the world and not just in the fast-growing Asian region.

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Unit 4 Macro: Gender Inequality and Economic Growth

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Removing the barriers to labour market participation that women face in many parts of the world will lead to substantial productivity gains, according to research by Marc Teignier, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 conference. 

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Unit 2 Macro: London House Prices continue to Surge

Friday, March 28, 2014

There seems little that is stopping the surge in London house prices at the moment but do you think the rapid acceleration of prices is good for either London or the wider UK economy? 

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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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Unit 4 Macro: Oxfam and IMF Focus on Inequality

Monday, March 17, 2014

Inequality is an issue that remains firmly in the spotlight of the news media and also of policy makers in different countries.

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IMF joins in the inequality debate

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inequality might be falling between nations as a global middle class is emerging, but inequality is on the rise within nations. Quite why this is happening is a matter of debate, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has joined in the discussion asking if rising inequality is an obstacle to economic growth and development.

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Manufacturing in Africa

Monday, February 24, 2014

Economics coverage of Africa can be a bit bleak (though perhaps it shouldn't be, with incomes rising rapidly in parts of Africa). There are often bad news stories, particularly in terms of human development indicators. News of economic progress often centres on the exploitation of primary commodities, with all the risks and issues that presents.

If you hope Africa will experience development, you’re likely to want to see sustained and robust economic growth. That, in turn, will require industrialization.

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Rethinking Slums

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You all know about exploding rates of urbanisation and the growth of mega cities. There’s much to celebrate in this trend, and economists are keen to advise countries how to urbanise successfully.

After all, for most subsistence farmers, life can be so grim that even life in a slum or shanty town can be a marked improvement. I’ve reluctantly admitted this fact to myself, and come to see slums as a stepping stone on the process of development.

A new study, reported in the Economist, suggests I might be wrong, and that we shouldn’t be ready to tolerate slums, and should be more determined to see their eradication – they might even be a barrier to development.

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Unit 4 Macro: Eurasia and Natural Resources

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Natural resource economics are applied in this new World Bank blog to the Eurasian region - plenty of overlap with your studies on the issue in the context of sub Saharan Africa and other parts of the world. Click here for the blog article. 

Click here for a blog article on the natural resource curse from Graham Watson (2012)

Our streamed revision presentation on the topic is below

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

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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“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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Working for the Few - Development and Inequality

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Notes from a talk given by Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (Head of Research at Oxfam) at the Marshall Society Economics Conference in Cambridge in January 2014

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The Emerging World and Poverty - Where Next?

Notes taken from the Marshall Society Economics Conference  - this panel session focused on growth and development issues in South Korea and sub Saharan Africa

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Poverty: New Thinking About an Old Problem

Here are some notes taken from a talk given by Peter Coy, Economics Editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, at the Marshall Society Economics Conference in Cambridge in January 2015

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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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Global Inequality and the double decker bus

Monday, January 20, 2014

According to Oxfam, half of all the world's wealth is owned by 85 people, who could all fit onto a single double-decker bus. 

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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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Unit 4 Macro: Who Are the Extremely Poor?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

This short you tube clip published by the World Bank looks at some salient facts and figures on the extent of extreme poverty in the world

The extreme poor live on less the US$1.25 a day. Many lack basic sanitation and clean drinking water; they're malnourished and suffer from lack of education. The facts speak volumes

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Income and wealth inequality in Switzerland

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The GINI coefficient for Switzerland is already low, at 29.6 (compared to the UK's 34, US's 45 and an EU average 30.4). Current data indicates the relative strength of the economy - real GDP growth at 1.9% in quarter 3 of 2013 (compared with a year earlier), 3.2% unemployment, real incomes rising, a current account surplus, high levels of both inward and outward FDI and a small government budget surplus. But things can always be improved, and the Swiss approach to 'direct democracy', which allows citizens to call for a referendum on anything they want, if they can gather 100,000 signatures calling for a vote, is currently resulting in a series of proposals to promote equality and social welfare.

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Wow Economics! Update the ‘Average Wage Game’ and ‘Values of Occupations’ game

Monday, December 16, 2013

Calling all previous delegates of our Wow Economics CPD events! If you attended Wow Economics last academic year (2012-2013) you may recall an activity called 'The Average Wage Game'. If you have attended this academic year I'm sure you will remember the activity 'The Value of Occupations'. Both resources were aimed at introducing or stimulating initial discussion about wage determination before moving on to developing the theory behind Marginal Revenue Product and its value.

Both activities relied upon data relating to UK wage rates by occupation. This data was based upon information taken from what was the latest ONS report on wages in the UK (November 2012). I said, at the time, that when the data was updated I would forward information for both games so that teachers can update them accordingly. This information is now here and ready for you to download!

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UK Earnings Map

We can get such a lot from maps and infographics - far more than one blog can cover. Before I set to work putting a few favourites together, here's a great one for UK earnings.

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Have Bankers Been Practising Socialism?  The Debate About the Top 1 Per Cent

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Boris Johnson has got into trouble for his statement that it is "surely relevant to a conversation about equality" that just 2 per cent of “our species” has an IQ over 130. Over the past couple of years, the Occupy movement has made headlines by attacking the top 1 per cent.

The summer 2013 edition of the top American Journal of Economic Perspectives focuses specifically on the “Top 1 Per Cent”. This is written almost exclusively in English rather than maths, and top economists debate a range of intriguing questions.

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Mandela’s economic legacy

Twenty years ago, South Africa had a GDP of $136bn. Today, that has almost tripled to $385bn. Tax receipts have risen from 114bn South African Rand to 814bn Rand, and in the last ten years labour productivity per worker has risen from $8,800 to $25,600. Electricity was available to only 58% of households in 1996, now it is available to 85%. And social grants for welfare which were paid to 2.4mn people in 1994 are now paid to 16.1mn.

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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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Development Economics e-book

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Working with one of my A2 Economics classes, we spent a few lessons rsearching useful case studies for the development economics section of Edexcel's course. Here is the results of our work.

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Unit 1 Micro: Housing Rent Controls

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The cost of renting property in many parts of the UK continues to rise - would rent controls make any difference? Here is an updated Unit 1 economics revision presentation.

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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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A Moral Defence of Capitalism

Friday, November 22, 2013

The biggest issue facing capitalism in modern times is the moral critique. This is partly due to a misunderstanding of capitalism, which has allowed it to become synonymous with “fat cat” bankers, “wide boys” and the fast and loose nature of our booming financial centres and cities. These are good in their own right, providing many jobs directly and indirectly and through their role as the life-giving force in the economy with small business support, which was albeit more prominent before the crash.

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Responses to a falling real minimum wage

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I've recently looked at the issue of a smaller slice of GDP going to wages, and here are a couple of links and updates on the minimum wage discussion. For those of you who follow this topic, you’ll also perhaps be familiar with the idea of a living wage, which is based around the argument that minimum wages are too low anyway.

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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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