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The weekend newsletter from the Institute of Economic Affairs has this 2-minute video about the regressive impact if indirect taxation on those with the lowest incomes. The message comes very much from the free-market perspective of the IEA, which may or may not be to your taste, but serves as a very good stimulus to discussion and analysis. The data that supports their argument for a reduction in indirect tax can be found in a report titled Aggressively Regressive.
"Smoking during pregnancy remains a major health problem, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 5,000 foetuses and babies each year in the UK. It is responsible for tens of millions of pounds in extra healthcare spending."
This extract from a report published today in the British Medical Journal offers clear evidence of a negative externality - not only does the extra healthcare spending carry the opportunity cost of less spending available for other health treatments, but there is also evidence that the babies whose mothers smoke but which survive will have more health problems later in life. This is classic territory for an AS question on the lines of 'Evaluate policies which the government could use to reduce the incidence of smoking during pregnancy." The report also proposes a controversial policy - giving shopping vouchers worth £400 to pregnant smokers who manage to kick the habit.read more...»
Inequality is on the rise. Not so much between countries as within them. There is some worrying indications, reported this week, that the gap between Britain’s best performing and worse performing regions remains thoroughly entrenched.read more...»
The economic news this week has been dominated by the announcement of a very low rate of inflation. Information from the ONS shows a few more interesting nuggets of data that economics students might like to know.
A reminder, also, that when we start talking quantiles, deciles and indexes, we are now only a few short months away from the arrival of new specifications for the A level and teachers need to start thinking about how they will integrate further quantitative methods into their lessons. If you wish to know more, stock up on a few resources and think about how the A level will change please join us on our latest teacher CPD event in London on the 12th of February looking at how to Master Quantitative Methods (book online from here).read more...»
The price mechanism should help the economy to allocate resources more efficiently. Scarcity drives up prices, sending a signal to the economy – usually giving firms an incentive to produce more, and households the motivation to ration their consumption.
Offering free parking sounds like a terrific idea, until you think of some of the possible consequences.read more...»
Perhaps you are starting to look at labour markets, which economists usually understand in terms of the supply of, and demand for, labour services. This is a good example of these two forces coming together to determine wage rates.read more...»
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
Many of you will know that Game Theory is an established branch of economic thought. It can be used to model a wide variety of situations, leading to predictions of the behaviour of economic agents. This blog is for people who are new to that idea.
I am an enthusiastic player of board games, but regard Monopoly and Risk as pretty awful. Many of my pupils ask to play Monopoly in the last lesson at the end of term. Like a proper Grinch I always say no, but usually use the conversation as an opportunity to raise a discussion about what (if anything) you might learn about economics from the game.
I was therefore drawn to an article in The Guardian by Paul Mason (who ranted about the banks recently) who argues that “the world is like a real-life game of global domination, where five mighty empires across the globe are gearing up for an economic wargame where there could be no winners”.read more...»
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...»
He's back! Sort of by popular demand! If you're looking for a quickfire activity for your Economics lessons this week then download the latest edition of the Angry Economist. Ask your students to choose one of the 8 policies announced in today's Autumn Statement by George Osborne and our favourite curmudgeonly economist randomly chooses an objective to analyse.
How does the proposed funding for new roads impact on equality for instance? How does the change in Stamp Duty application affect economic growth. A fun and quick way to get your students analyzing first thing in your lesson.
Download the Angry Economist Autumn Statement Edition here.
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...»
Apologies, but I can't resist the prospect of using this story about a new solution to the market failure of pollution: an eco-friendly bus which has just gone into service to transport people between Bath and Bristol Airport.read more...»
One of the jobs of an economist is to ask this question daily. What else might these resources have been spent on? This concept is known as opportunity cost.
Perhaps the mission can be justified in cost/benefit terms. But maybe it shouldn’t have to.read more...»
We all know Batman, the superhero alter-ego of Bruce Wayne. Mr Wayne is the heir to a huge fortune which he uses in his quest to catch the crooks of Gotham City. But could Bruce use a few economics lessons? Is he making best use of resources? Might he achieve more if he put his resources into other uses?
Ask yourself these questions:read more...»
Japan has suffered years of persistent deflation, and needs expansionary policy to change that. But they also have the highest public debt of any of the developed countries, at just under 230%, and need contractionary policy to change that. How are they to manage such a difficult trade off?read more...»
Amazon comes in for some pretty severe criticisms from various quarters. So I enjoyed reading an article by Reihan Salam in Slate, who argues that “Jeff Bezos’ company is not the problem with American capitalism. It’s the solution to our economy’s ills”.read more...»
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!read more...»
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...»
If you have a short break coming up - and you're new to economics - now would be a great time to collect together some resources about the extraordinary recent shift in the oil market.read more...»
A seasonal quiz challenge for your economics students fresh out of the tutor2u Learning Lab.read more...»
Have a read of this fascinating article from the Guardian about the fall in prices for mink fur in China. It struck me that, not only does the article give you several traditional causes of a slump in demand (let's all draw the diagram!) but comes up with a brand new cause of a shift that I've not seen before!
The article suggests that the shift in demand is caused by a warmer than expected winter (tick, weather conditions) and that an increase in the number of educated Chinese people are choosing not to use mink for ethical reasons (tick, change in tastes). It also says that demand has dropped as the Chinese government are clamping down on corporate corruption preventing Chinese directors from accepting luxury goods in return for favourable business decisions - which of our Economics Teacher categories does that fit in?
PS. Look out for the fantastic activity 'Demand Street', which challenges students to work out what change in demand factor is being demonstrated, showcased at this year's Wow Economics Teacher CPD event fro Tutor2u.
Here's a fun resource that's trickier then it sounds. 'Wordsnake' is a resource developed by our very own Graham Prior. At first glance it appears to be a wordsearch as you see a grid of what appears to be 100 random letters. However, the key phrase being tested 'snakes' around the grid rather than being up, down or diagonal as in a normal wordsearch.
Students are given a question on screen with the answer hidden in the grid. Who can be the first to spot the answer and call out its location?
If the answer is not obvious at first, the teacher can press the space bar and the letters reveal themselves one at a time. This version contains 5 questions relating to elasticity and demand.read more...»
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...»
We've got another fantastic interactive quiz format for you. This one will help test how much your students have taken in over these first few weeks of the AS course. This activity called 'Four Words' shows students the first four words of a definition of a key phrase. Students must decide if they think they know what the key phrase is (and earn maximum points) or wait to see the rest of the definition and earn lower points. Of course, if they get the answer wrong they get zero points! 15 key phrases are tested.read more...»
You may have seen my post giving you an example of introducing the concept of diseconomies of scale on Sunday where you ask a large team of students to draw an image of Steve Jobs. This next one is nothing like that!
Instead, here's another example of a future-proofed activity that uses a bit of number work to make its point. I'm not saying that you'll get a question like this in the new specification (but who knows?) but this does illustrate the concept of economies of scale using numbers.read more...»
Here's a 10 to 15 minute activity to introduce the concept of diseconomies of scale. The activity asks groups to re-draw an image (in this case, the face of Steve Jobs) onto a grid. The image is held on screen (as part of a Powerpoint slideshow) whilst the groups re-draw the image. The trick is to separate the class into teams of different sizes. So, for example, if you had a class of 16 you could separate it into teams of 6, 4, 3 and 3. All team members must participate and the teams are only given 3 minutes to re-draw the image.
Generally, the larger teams will be less successful as they will get in each other's way. Also, the smaller teams may feel more motivated as they want to beat the bigger teams. A fun way to start talking about diseconomies of scale. You can use the re-drawn images afterwards as a class room poster (with some annotation) to illustrate the point and remind your students of their artistic prowess!
Here's a couple of quick Crossword activities that you can set in class or as homework from the tutor2u team. They are:
- AS Introductory Economics
- A2 Theory of the Firm
Both come with 15 questions and you can even download the answers if you think you might need some help!read more...»
AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW: ESTIMATED PUBLICATION DATE: EARLY DECEMBER 2014
AQA ECON1 & ECON2 Worked Answers is a new printed resource from the tutor2u Economics team which we expect to be available for dispatch from early December 2014.read more...»
If, like me, you spent much of the spring and summer of this year being 'gently persuaded' to purchase loom bands and their paraphernalia, you may find this short presentation and task on demand and supply of the product useful.
For many weeks, it seemed almost impossible to undertake a shopping trip with my youngest son without him pointing out the huge selection of available bands and their construction tools. He built up quite a selection or different colours and styles as my vacuum cleaner can happily testify. Then I noticed a tailing off of his requests and noted that this week, when I pointed out a shop selling the rubber bands at half price, he declared that he was no longer interested - even at the reduced rate compared to just 4 weeks ago.
He seemed less than impressed when I pointed out how this was a fine example of how demand and supply impacts upon price. However, many of you may be at the stage where you are going through demand, supply and equilibrium with your AS students.read more...»
London's New Year's Eve fireworks display is to be limited to a viewing area of 100,000 ticketed spectators for the first time. The event's popularity made it "untenable" to strain the transport and safety infrastructure with a larger number, the Mayor's office says. Hence the decision to charge £10. This poses a question about the nature of public goods.read more...»
The transport economists amongst you will be giving considerable thought to the question of tackling road traffic congestion. I’ve picked up on two stories here because they take contrasting approaches. The first is to use technology and regulation to tackle the problem – the so-called command and control approach. The other relies on price signals, so might be described as a market led approach.read more...»
A great example to start you off looking at how economists understand markets: after a run of rain-wrecked years, British farmers are bringing in the last of what looks like a bumper cereals harvest. 2014 could be the biggest yield ever for wheat. Good news. But for whom?read more...»
This west African health crisis is a tragedy. It could be an issue that stimulates an economics discussion. According to James Surowiecki in The New Yorker there are no real tools to stop the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The lack of treatment is disturbing. But given the way drug development is funded, it’s also predictable.read more...»
Here is another ready-to-use edition of our thinking-skills resource Focus Circle which provides an engaging way to teach factor inputs.read more...»
When students first ask what economics is all about, I always find it tricky not to give a very long answer. It’s the same when starting to plan those induction lessons in economics: what will help them to understand the base principles of the subject but also develop an awareness of the economist’s mindset? At IB, the Foundations of Economics section of the syllabus sets out what to cover quite nicely. I've shared a few useful resource links below.read more...»
A new study finds that incentives to switch to green vehicles produce big health benefitsread more...»
Why do we get summer holiday blockbusters? They seem to matter more and more to Hollywood studios. According to one professor "the entertainment industry is moving more towards a winner-take-all-market". Yet it wasn't supposed to be like this. A best-selling 2008 book, The Long Tail, argued that the mainstream was going to be "shattered into a zillion different cultural shards," as fickle consumers "scattered to the winds" using the internet to find the books, films and songs that met their unique taste. So what might be going on?read more...»
Many readers at this time of the year will be looking forward to their summer break, perhaps contemplating with a certain amount of envy their colleagues who have already departed. But is leisure good for you? A bit of a no brainer one might think. Indeed, until recently the consensus amongst applied economists was that even enforced leisure, by being made unemployed, seemed to be a good thing.read more...»
Fed up with the closure of a cracked road between Bristol and Bath where repairs were likely to last several months, a farmer has invested £150,000 to build a temporary 365m toll road which saves motorists from having to make a 10 mile detour. The businessman is charging cars £2 and motor cycles £1 for each journey and is offering a £10 offer for regular users who need to use the road on twelve occasions.
This is a lovely example of the difference between a quasi public good and a private good. The toll road has its own booth for collecting the charges and seems to have found favour with local residents. Whether or not sufficient cars make the journey to cover the operating costs remains to be seen. Repair work on the A431 at Kelston are likely to take five months and mean that 1,000 vehicles per day are needed for the project to break even.
The businessman Mike Watts has been using You Tube to provide the background to his decision to build the toll road!read more...»
How much money do you need for an 'adequate' standard of living? This short video from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation considers the levels of income needed to sustain a modest but adequate life-style in the UK in 2014.read more...»
In this blog, Professor Simon Wren-Lewis from Oxford University bemoans the absence of debate over the notion of a maximum wage - with specific reference to the pay of senior executives.read more...»
A report out yesterday from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows a dramatic fall in the consumption by young people (aged 11 to 15) of our favourite demerit goods – alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The report suggests that over the last decade regular smoking fell from 9% to 3% of 11- to 15-year-olds. Regular alcohol drinking dropped from 25% to 9%. Drug use has halved from 12% to 6% over this 10 year period.
This, of course, is very good news with regards to the relative health of our youth. As an economics teacher the first question I would ask my students is how this downturn has been achieved? What has happened either within the market or with government intervention to shift consumption in this way? It could be argued that this represents the most successful example of government intervention into markets to change behaviour and can be attributed to regulation, restriction of use and good old education! Information failure does not appear to have had an impact and the political will to succeed has been fairly uniform among the major parties in power.
For me, of course, it also offers the opportunity to do the next in my series of numerical activities in preparation for the arrival of the new specifications in 2015!read more...»
This is a super report from BBC Newsnight on the issue of our throwaway society and the externalities of waste. How can the link between consumption and the discarding of unwanted and broken products be weakened? What role can innovation play - for example the rise of modular phones where parts can be replaced when broken. The fundamental problem is that traditional manufacturing business models are based on mass production and sales. How are increasing world commodity prices affecting this model?read more...»
People do care about fairness, social norms and not just about a cold calculation of marginal cost and marginal benefit. In this excellent short interview on BBC World, Joe Gladstone, Behavioural Scientist at the University of Cambridge, discusses the new form of "Pay What You Want" pricing. This means consumers can decide themselves how much they want to pay for a good or service. The catalyst is that several French hotels are experimenting with a pay what you like approach for their guests.read more...»
The UK economy is doing well. Even so, it is not often that we are placed unequivocally at the top of a world ranking of any kind. But a team of economists led by Nicholas Gruen of Lateral Economics in Melbourne has done just that. In their recent report on the economic potential created by the concept of open data, it turns out that the UK government has been leading the world. On the Open Data Index, we score 100 compared to America’s 93. There is then a big gap to the next group, Australia, Canada and Germany, placed in the high 60s.read more...»
Today’s announcement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are recommending that the High Street Banks’ provision of current accounts should be investigated for lack of competition may not surprise many. The case study may be valuable when looking at competition in oligopolistic markets and a report can be found from this link. The BBC take on the story can be found from this link.
I also thought it offered a chance to do some calculations! Given my current theme of bringing the new levels of assessment of numeracy and quantitative methods in the 2015 specifications of A level economics ever increasingly to the attention of our teaching community, where better to do some number work than when looking at market share in the banking industry!read more...»
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...»
You will probably be aware that assessment in the new AS and A level in Economics (starting in September 2015) will have a much greater emphasis on numeracy and quantitative methods. 20% of marks will be awarded to answers based upon number work and interpretation of graphs, charts and tables.
Whatever your view on the merits of this change, there is no doubt that it brings one of the biggest challenges to teachers of economics since the year 2000. Tutor2u have put together a team of experienced teachers with different awarding body knowledge to create resources and give advice through a series of CPD events during the 2014-2015 academic year.
If you look through any of the specimen papers from the three main awarding bodies you won’t be surprised to see a huge emphasis on calculation of percentages, use of index numbers and the need to understanding fractions and ratios. You can already imagine the increased use of elasticity calculations and having to work out costs and revenues.
Did you know however (depending on your exam board choice) that your students may have to calculate opportunity cost ratios for comparative advantage, dependency ratios, quantity theory of money, terms of trade index, national income multiplier and marginal propensity to consume? Imagine a marginal social cost/benefit diagram with figures included! Have you ever asked students to convert money in real terms? How do you think they will cope with medians and quartiles?
Our team are working on resources and advice to hand out to teachers for our ‘New to A level Economics – Quantitative Methods’ CPD days. Details about times, dates and locations to follow soon.
So, farewell then England! Yet another failure by our boys at the highest levels of the game. Despite their stupendous salaries, they seem once again to be unable to exhibit the necessary skills, a point which seems to exercise many fans of the game. Tens of thousands, if not millions, of words have been written about the purely footballing aspect already. But one topic which is hiding away under this torrent is the question of incentives.read more...»
Here’s a light-hearted one! What could we have had instead of 2 billion views of Gangnam Style?The Economist ponders that question.read more...»