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New Infographic on Human Capital

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A hat tip to Hannah Thomas who has spotted a new info graphic on human capital produced by the Office for National Statistics.  You can find it here http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/human-capi... with more supporting detail and explanation here http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_374868.pdf

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BHP Billiton announces plans for a demerger

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

De-mergers often figure in EdExcel Unit 3 questions e.g. on the structured multiple choice - so this one from mining giant BHP Billiton is a good example to be aware of and to understand the key drivers behind the decision. BHP Billiton plan to sell (divest) non-core assets such as their aluminium, manganese and nickel mines.

As always - focusing on core competencies, streamlining operations to avoid diseconomies of scale lie at the heart of the de-merger process

BHP Billiton is hugely profitable! BHP achieved full-year profits last year of $US13.8bn helped by a 15th straight year of record iron ore production.

More here on the planned demerger from Reuters Business News

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High Charges for Remittances Choke Developing Countries

Monday, August 18, 2014

Western Union and MoneyGram dominate the money transfer industry and the high level of fees that these companies has been heavily criticised in recent years. This is an important article given the huge scale of remittance transfers in the world economy to relatively poor countries such as India, the Philippines and many sub Saharan African nations. 

Click here for an info graphic on remittances produced by the World Bank: http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/E...

Development Economics: The Fortunes of Nations

Here is a really excellent blog on the issue of growth divergence - Simon Taylor contrasts the historical growth records of the United States versus Argentina and then South Korea against Ghana. The accompanying charts reveal starkly the widening gap in GDP per capita between each pair of countries over the very long term.

I will be following Simon Taylor's blog as the new school year comes into focus http://www.simontaylorsblog.com

Economics Teaching Meeting - 17 Nov 2014

I am arranging a one day discussion forum and seminar on economics teaching at Eton College, Windsor on Monday 17th November

The main aim of the day is to have an open discussion on teaching and learning strategies whilst sharing good ideas and resources and building networks between economics teachers from many different schools and colleges

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Asian Development Bank Website

The Asian Development Bank website is an excellent source of information and analysis for many of the developing / emerging countries that students will want to focus ones part of their A2 and IB economics studies. Click here to access their resources: http://www.adb.org

RES Young Economist of the Year 2014 - Results Announcement

The RES is delighted to announce that the 2014 Young Economist of the Year is:

Kartik Vira of Hills Road VI Form College, Cambridge, who will receive the glass trophy and a prize of £1,000.
Second place goes to Jessica Zeng, Withington Girls’ School, Manchester (£500).
Joint third place goes to: Viva Avasthi, King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls, Birmingham;
David Bullen, Manchester Grammar School;
and Hannah Dudley, Toot Hill College, Nottingham, each of whom will receive £250.

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Update on Student Numbers Taking Economics

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Here are the Economics A Level stats updated for this summer (June 2014)

Economics passes 70k for the first time in many years!

Student numbers taking AS Econ have more than doubled over the last 8 years

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Cost Benefit Analysis: Swansea Tidal Lagoon

Plans for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power station are potentially a superb case study to use when teaching the multiplier effect, renewable energy, cost-benefit analysis, economies of scale and different forms of government intervention including subsidies for harnessing new energy sources.

According to an article in the Independent:

"The £850m, six-mile-long U-shaped seawall by the Swansea docks will not only generate enough electricity to power 120,000 homes for 120 years – it will also create nearly 2,000 construction jobs in the two years it takes to build; and it will leave the city with a tourist attraction drawing in up to 100,000 visitors a year."

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Monetary Policy: Key Factors Affecting Interest Rates

This is a really excellent piece from Larry Elliott at the Guardian on some of the factors that the Bank of England will take into account when deciding the moment to move policy interest rates up from their historic low of 0.5%. To think, there are students who might make it through their entire secondary school education without experiencing a change in UK monetary policy interest rates!

A2 Micro Business Economics Study Companion

My 2014 Edexcel Unit 3 Course Companion has been extensively revised and updated. New elements include updates on recent changes to UK competition policy, an extended business glossary and numerous exam tips for stronger analysis and evaluation built into the main text. There is a large number of topical case study applications throughout the 29 main chapters and 142 pages.

You can place an order for this companion - which is available for immediate dispatch - by clicking this link http://tutor2u.net/acatalog/Edexcel-A2-Economics-U...

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IB Economics: The Foundations of Economics

Saturday, August 16, 2014

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.

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Business Economics - Succeeding in the US Market

This article from the BBC news site is excellent for teachers and students wanting some applied examples of businesses that have succeeded in building through organic growth a durable market presence in the USA and some examples of bigger names / corporations that have failed.What are the key ingredients? How do import tariffs affect a business such as Brompton Bikes?

Robots and the Changing Pattern of Jobs

Friday, August 15, 2014

This is an excellent background video clip to use when teaching / studying capital-labour substitution and the likely changes in the pattern of demand for labour / employment in the UK jobs market

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Externalities: Health Benefits of Low Emissions Zones

A new study finds that incentives to switch to green vehicles produce big health benefits

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Lindau Economics Summit - Applied Uses of Economics

At the August 2014 Lindau Meeting, several plenary lectures by Nobel laureates will illustrate some of the ways in which economics can be useful for dealing with real-world problems. Here are some summaries of the presentations.

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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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The Economics of the Blockbuster

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?

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Price Discrimination in the the EU Vehicle Hire Market

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An almost perfect example of price discrimination is evident in this market revealed on the BBC online news site - read this section carefully!

"Charges vary for some motorists, even if they are picking up the same vehicle from the same location and from the same hire company."

Then read through the article to find clues as to how some vehicle hire businesses have been able to segment the market and discriminate between drivers from different countries inside the EU.

The regulators are onto the issue - expect some action unless vehicle hire businesses adjust their pricing tactics!

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The predictability of the Premier League

The Premier League kicks off again this weekend. Given the abysmal showing of our boys in the World Cup, a falling off of interest might be expected. But increasingly, the competition attracts many of the best players from all over the world. A self-reinforcing process has been set up on a global scale. The more popular both the League and its individual clubs become across the world, the more money is brought in through TV rights, merchandise sales and so forth. Even better players can be employed, which increases its attractiveness even further.

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RES Essay Competition 2014 Winning Entries Announced

From the final shortlist of 18 essays drawn from a total entry of over 1600, the judging panel of Charles Bean (RES President), Professor Tim Besley (London School of Economics) and Stephanie Flanders (JP Morgan) have selected five winners and wish to congratulate them, together with all of the other students that made the short list.

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Recessions are good for the nation’s health

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

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.

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Exam Coaching & Revision Workshops for AS/A2 Economics in 2015

The dates and locations for our programme of intensive exam coaching & revision days for AS & A2 Economics in Spring 2015 are now available. Details below. We'll add details of how to book online to this blog entry shortly.

To see what is involved in our exam coaching & revision days, watch this brief video from a recent event:

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Takeovers: Morrison’s Disastrous Investment in Kiddicare

Monday, August 04, 2014

If you are looking for a good recent example of how takeovers can destroy returns for shareholders (of the investing business), then add Morrison’s purchase of Kiddicare to the list!

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Public and Private Goods - Farmer Opens a Toll Road

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!

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WOW! Economics 2015 - the UK’s Leading CPD Course for A Level Economics

We are delighted to announce the initial dates and locations for WOW! Economics 2015 - our flagship CPD course for ALL A Level Economics teachers.

WOW! Economics 2015 builds on the phenomenal success of the previous two years with yet another resource-packed day designed to provide teaching colleagues with effective and innovative teaching & learning materials.

The feedback from previous WOW! Economics courses has delighted us and we've grown the team of contributing Economics teachers to ensure that WOW! Economics 2015 is our best-ever.

Don't worry if you missed WOW! Economics 2014 - the full binder and CD of resources from the course can still be purchased from our online store together with a selection of individual resources from the inaugural WOW! Economics 2013.

Here are the initial confirmed dates and locations for the 2015 course programme:

11 November 2014: MANCHESTER

12 November 2014: BIRMINGHAM

13 November 2014: LONDON

25 November 2014: GLASGOW

28 November 2014: CARDIFF

17 June 2015: LONDON

18 June 2015: BIRMINGHAM

19 June 2015: MANCHESTER

Teaching the New A Level Economics: Mastering Quantitative Methods

A key feature of the new A Level and standalone AS specifications (for first teaching from September 2015) is a greater focus on quantitative methods.

The Ofqual subject criteria with which awarding bodies must comply states that specifications must require learners to:

"...develop analytical and quantitative skills in selecting, interpreting and using appropriate data from a range of sources"

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Conglomerate Opts to Ditch some Brands

Sunday, August 03, 2014

P&G has announced that it will look to focus on a much smaller number of consumer brands and cull up to 100 brands from its extensive product portfolio. In a classic example of product portfolio management, P&G wants to focus on those 70-80 key brands that have existing strong market shares and/or fast growth prospects.

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Behavioural Economics Resources (Update August 2014)

Friday, August 01, 2014

Here are some newly published resources covering aspects of behavioural economics 

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INET New Economics Degree Curriculum

I hope that many economics teachers in the UK and beyond will be very interested in following the debates about reforming the undergraduate economics curriculum. This link http://www.res.org.uk/view/art3Jul14Features.html takes you to an entry in the latest RES newsletter which covers some of the changes made to the INET curriculum programme being led by Professor Wendy Carlin from UCL.

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Catastrophe Bonds

Catastrophe Bonds (or cat bonds) are essentially a bet against natural disaster - insurance companies issue the bonds and investors get paid their interest in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes not happening. 

According to the Financial Times, "catastrophe bonds are typically issued for three years and, if no disaster occurs in that period, bond investors receive a good payout; otherwise, they have to pay out themselves."

Do the investors such as pension funds and insurance companies truly understand the risks that they are taking with (our) money? 

Duncan Weldon investigates in this BBC Newsnight report. Ultra low interest rates in advanced economies appear to have encourage pension funds to search for riskier assets (a search for yield) to improve their return on their assets. A major natural disaster could trigger huge losses for those who have piled huge sums of money into them.

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The Economics of The LEGO Movie

Here is the latest episode of EconPop by EconStories, which sees the Lego Movie being analysed to humorously highlight economic principles and themes that run through it. These are always fun and are great at exposing economics within popular media. Check out the Econ Stories site for more great videos and resources, including the brilliant Keynes and Hayek rap battle.

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Tata Group Sets out its Conglomerate Vision

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tata Group, perhaps best known in the UK for its ownership of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Corus, has set out ambitious plans to invest $35bn in capital spending over the next three years as part of its vision for the next 10 years.

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Small businesses - a bakery in the desert

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This video report from BBC Global Business looks at the success of a very small scale bakery located in an isolated mountain our region of Spain. 

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New series of short films on Economics

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Below are links to a number of recent films about economic research and policy debates - our thanks to Romesh Vaitilingam for collating them.

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IMF 2014 Review of the UK Economy

Here is a link to a video report produced by the IMF as part of their annual assessment of the UK economy. Overall, the IMF is considerably more optimistic than it was in 2013 about prospects for near term recovery of output and continued reductions in unemployment.

Risks to macro stability are also considered, namely weak productivity growth and high housing prices

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Measuring a minimum income standard

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.

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Should there be a maximum wage?

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. 

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In Praise of Inequality in Science

Does inequality in the output of scientists matter? Inequality is a fashionable topic these days, and evidence for its existence is keenly sought in all sorts of places. John Ioannidis, a health policy researcher at Stanford, and his colleagues have found it in the research outputs of their fellow academics. In a paper published in the prestigious journal PLoS ONE, they searched the entire published scientific literature in academic journals over the period 1996-2011.

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Paths to development - Adding value to natural resources

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is an absolutely outstanding article to use when introducing development economics to a level students. The work of Hausmann and Hidalgo on complexity and economic development is becoming more widely recognised and used in schools. Hausmann's article here in Project Syndicate emphasises the importance of building capabilities within an economy to promote the growth of higher value added industries. Here is the link to the article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ricar...

Russia increases policy interest rates to 8%

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Russian central bank has raised their main policy interest rate by 0.5% to a new level of 8% in a bid to control inflationary pressures in the Russian economy. 

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Greece - Nudging towards Macro Stability?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three years on from the riots and deep economic, financial and political crisis, is the reforming Greek economy turning a corner and improving outcomes for the key macroeconomic indicators. Professor Paul Collier labelled Greece as a "sub-merging economy" a little while ago but there are now some positive signs reflected in this highly relevant news report from the Financial Times. I have added some key macro data on Greece and other troubled Euro Area countries using data from the IMF World Economic Outlook.

Further reading:

Guardian: Greece forges template for economic recovery as tourists pour in: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/03/greec...

BBC video: Pain in paradise for struggling Greeks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28012089

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July 2014 - UK Economy back to Pre Crisis Level

An important landmark for the UK economy? Britain’s economy is finally larger than it was before the financial crisis six years ago. FT economics editor Chris Giles analyses the data and warns that continuing weak productivity means output growth will be slower than before the crisis - an excellent analysis of the key macro indicators suitable for all A level economics students. 

I have added some charts on the UK drawn from the latest IMF world economic outlook.

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Reduction in UK consumption of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes by young people - numerical example

Friday, July 25, 2014

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!

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Externalities of Waste - Do we throw too much stuff away?

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?

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Lindau Nobel Economics Talks - The Labour Market

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Mini Lecture discusses issues of labour productivity, low-wage work and economic growth of emerging markets.

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2014 HDI Report focuses on Vulnerability

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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United Queendom Scottish Independence as a Romantic Comedy

A new online comedy series launches on Thursday 24th July! 

The series tells the story of Scott and Adrian, two lovers on the verge of break up. Scott runs an oil company – bath oils that is – and Adrian spends their money as if it’s his own. Will they work things out or will Scott go it alone? All will be revealed when the series launches this August in time for the Scottish independence referendum.

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The Economics of Pay What You Want

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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.

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Open Data:  Britain leads the world

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.

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