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20p tax on sugary drinks propsed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Here's one of those stories that help illustrate the point about de-merit goods really well.  The Children's Food Campaign are calling for a specific tax on sugary drinks to help combat obesity in children.  Key points:

  • Sugary drinks is the example of a de-merit good
  • Tax is the proposed strategy for reducing consumption
  • Costs of obesity given here (in terms of number of illnesses that could be reduced)
  • Article gives a counter argument from British Soft Drinks Association using evidence from France

Click here to read the article from The Grocer website

    Poverty and inequality: does trickle-down economics work?

    Tuesday, December 09, 2014

    Two reports published in the last 48 hours provide some really useful background for teaching about policies to address the issues of poverty and inequality in developed economies. The Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom was published yesterday, and concluded that because of falling real incomes, delays in paying benefits which people are legitimately entitled to, and sharp rises in fuel bills, many families are "one unexpected bill away from financial crisis".

    read more...»

    Unequal Opportunities for UK Actors

    Friday, December 05, 2014

    Julie Walters is the latest actor to claim that opportunities for young actors in the UK are unequal in today's Daily Mirror.  There seems to have been a slew of similar claims in recent months from the likes of Ian Mckellen, Judie Dench, Stephen Morrisey and Stephen McGann. 

    How would economists illustrate this issue?  

    If you are an A2 Economics student (and depending on which awarding body you sit), you may well have covered Marginal Revenue Product, drawn the 'walking stick' MRP curve and applied such a theory to inequality of opportunity for females or people from a minority ethnic background in the UK.  Could the same be applied to acting?

    read more...»

    Rail fares rise pegged to inflation

    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:

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    Globalisation, comparative advantage and the puzzle of rising inequality

    Friday, November 07, 2014

    The poor countries should catch up with the richer ones, in theory, at least. And between 1988 and 2008, global inequality, as measured by the distribution of income between rich and poor countries, has narrowed, according to the World Bank. But within each country, there has been widening inequality in many poor places.

    read more...»

    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?

    read more...»

    Is the Great Catch Up slowing down?

    Thursday, October 09, 2014

    One optimistic observation in economics is that poor countries should be able to catch up with the richer ones, since it’s easier to grow from a low level of GDP to a higher one. This observation was made by Nobel-winner Robert Solow in 1956, and is based on the idea that low income countries are poor because their workers have access to less capital. This capital shortage (i.e. insufficient infrastructure) implies that the return on investment should be high, so capital should flow from rich countries to poor ones, leading the two worlds to converge on similar levels of productivity and income.

    Furthermore, in this theory, growth in rich countries is driven by new technology which, once developed, could be adopted by poorer economies too. Indeed, the poor could potentially learn from the mistakes made by the rich, and leapfrog directly to more productive ways of doing things.

    And so it seemed. From the late 1990s to 2008, poor countries were catching up fast. But that catch up seems to have slowed down (see chart above).

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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?

    read more...»

    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?

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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."

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.  

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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?

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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. 

    read more...»

    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)

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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:

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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. 

    read more...»

    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? 

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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).

    read more...»

    “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?

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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. 

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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

    read more...»

    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.

    read more...»

    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!

    read more...»

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