Department of Economics

Labour, Education and Health Economics

Members of the Labour, Education and Health Economics group carry out research on a range of topics including: the minimum wage, wage discrimination, health behaviours, education and migration 

Research focus

Understanding how labour markets work and perform is of importance for the well-being of individuals and families. Members of the research group have worked on two broad themes within Labour Economics:

1) Wage discrimination

2) Low pay and the minimum wage.

Several areas of work that were traditionally considered “non-economics” are also associated with labour economics. These include the economics of education, health economics and crime.

Members of the Labour research group are regularly presenting their up to date research in workshops and leading national and international conferences such as: The Royal Economics Society (RES), The European Economic Association (EEA), The European Association of Labour Economics (EALE), The European Society of Population Economics (ESPE), Society of Labor Economists (SOLE). In April 2014 the Labour research group hosted a workshop on the economics of crime (partially funded by the Royal Economic Society) where leading experts presented their cutting edge findings. Bath Labour group also regularly host the Bath-Bristol applied economics workshop.

Labour Economics research group members have also been involved in various large-scale international research projects that were funded by major European Institutions. Members are currently involved in two major EU FP7 funded projects: Green Lifestyles, Alternative Models and Upscaling Regional Sustainability (GLAMURS), and the Neurobiology of Decision Making in Eating- Innovation Tools (Nudge-it). Members are also involved in research projects funded from the British Academy, the Low Pay Commission, BANES council & the Cabinet Office, FSD Kenya, Swiss National Foundation, the South West Crucible and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.


Research staff

Dr Joanna Clifton-Sprigg's research interests are in the field of labour economics, with particular focus on the topics of migration and education. She is predominantly interested in the socio-economic implications of the unprecedented increase in migratory movements within the European Union over the past decade. She has focused on educational outcomes of children whose parents engaged in migration. The interest was initially instigated by the heated debate in migrant-sending countries about the effects parental emigration may have on families. She has worked on the impact of parental employment abroad on children’s educational outcomes and, in turn, the potential spillover effects on classroom peers. If school performance of children is negatively affected by the migration experience, it may later affect their labour market success. In cases of large scale migration, the problem may have significant implications on a country’s labour market. The analysis used novel data on teenagers in Poland, collected for the purposes of the project, and found no evidence of prolonged negative impacts of parental migration.

Currently, Joanna studies the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills of bilingual children. This work is motivated by the idea that acquisition of an additional language early on in life may be an investment in the child’s human capital. As such, it may positively influence a variety of later life outcomes, including schooling and employment. At the same time, the successful development of linguistic skills by young children is dependent on their parental effort and ability to teach them a language. Thus, there is a question whether the children have an educational advantage over their peers or whether they perform worse. This is important from the policy perspective as any early-life educational gaps should be targeted and remedied through schooling. Currently, the project focuses on Scotland, where the data for the study were collected. It is hoped, however, that findings may be applicable in other countries with comparably international population.

Eleonora Fichera joined the University of Bath in March 2017 as Senior Lecturer in Economics. Previously, she has been working at the Manchester Centre for Health Economics, University of Manchester where she held an MRC Early Career Fellowship in Economics of Health (2013-2016). She has held visiting positions at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and at the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is Honorary staff at the University of Manchester.Her research interests are in the economics of health and applied micro-economics. Her research investigates the socio-economic determinants of health with a focus in both developed and developing countries. Eleonora has supervised a couple of PhD students.

She has co-directed the M.Sc. Economics of Health at the University of Manchester and she has taught in two of its modules. Eleonora has obtained grants from the Medical Research Council (MRC), MRC jointly with DFiD and ESRC, the National Institute for Health Research, the Royal Economic Society, the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, the University of Manchester Research Institute and the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester.

John Hudson is currently working on several issues, including the impact of robots on the labour market, the role of the extension system in Ethiopian agriculture and an analysis of journal papers’ styles and their impact on citations. He is also examining the role of ‘impact’ in the Research Excellence Framework and will shortly be submitting an application for a grant to look at UK enterprise zones. He recently gave a keynote presentation at a conference in Prague about the evolving nature of monetary policy. He also advises the West of England LEP. His first book on Inflation, published in 1982, has recently been reprinted by Routledge. For recent publications see here.

Dr Jonathan James (group leader) works in the fields of applied econometrics, health and labour economics with a focus on applied policy orientated research. He is currently working on a paper that estimates the short run cost of binge drinking along four main outcomes: accident and emergency admissions, road accidents, arrests and police deployment. He has also carried out a field experiment in over thirty primary schools across England giving incentives in the form of stickers and additional rewards to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The interest here is to examine the effect of different rewarding schemes. In particular, he and his co-authors compare an individual based scheme with a competition based reward mechanism. They find that the groups using competition worked best overall, however, there are stark differences among different sub-groups. Jonathan is also interested in the methodology of field experiments and has a couple of papers examining selection into experiments by field partners both theoretically and empirically. He is also involved in a large FP7 EU funded consortium called NUDGE-it ( . The purpose of this project is to better understand decision-making in food choice and contribute to improving public health policy. In particular, alongside lab experiments this will involve a field experiment with 300 families, and 150 pregnant women.

Mr Thanos Mergoupis’s research interests are in labour economics and political economy. His labour economics research focuses on labour market discrimination. His current research is on the effects of changing population composition on relative wages and employment rates when wage discrimination is present in the labour market. He is willing to supervise any empirical or theoretical topic related to labour market discrimination or any other mechanism that generates racial/gender economic inequalities. His political economy research focuses on the interaction of political and market mechanisms. He is currently researching the informational content of ordinal index preferences as revealed by individuals and bureaucracies. He is willing to supervise any theoretical or empirical topic related to the effects and/or properties of mixtures of political and market resource allocation mechanisms. His research on the effects of internships is at the intersection of labour and public economics. His current research focuses on the academic performance effects of internships (or placements) and addresses questions such as: Does training complement formal education when training precedes formal education? To what extent can this complementarity be broken down to non-cognitive skills on the one hand and subject specific skills on the other? To what extent can we generalise across different subjects when formal education reaches the degree of specialisation found in upper level university courses?

Dr Kerry L. Papps is currently working on a project commissioned by the Low Pay Commission, examining how the minimum wage affects the rate of job turnover in the U.K. and whether there is evidence that employers substitute between workers in different age groups in response to the minimum wage. In another paper, he looks at whether increases in the minimum wage among those aged 16-21 have reduced wage growth later in those workers' careers and whether this is affected by the level of competitiveness of the labour market in which the person works. Kerry also works with data on professional sports and is currently examining whether the performance of baseball players is related to the performance of their team-mates and whether young tennis players take into account the probability of future success when deciding whether to continue playing the sport.

Prof John Sessions is working on several papers investigating, theoretically and empirically, the relationship between contract structure and performance. Current theoretical work endeavours to rationalise previous empirical findings that the tenure-earnings profiles of workers employed under performance related pay have an intermediate gradient relative to those of otherwise similar salaried and self-employed workers. A closely related paper demonstrates how standards and efficiency wages are related. In a more general setting where the probability of detection depends upon the equilibrium effort level of non-shirkers, it is shown that the uniformly positive (negative) supply-side relationship between wages (unemployment insurance) and effort is no longer guaranteed.

Other work focusses on the effect of worker interdependence and absence. Developing a theoretical model in which two workers can either compete or cooperate with one another, performance under either scenario is compared to that of a single worker working in isolation. The paper shows that whilst competition unequivocally reduces performance, cooperation may raise or lower performance. Employing a unique data set in which workgroups are comprised of either one or two workers, an explicit test finds strong support for cooperative behaviour.

Dr Sunčica Vujić's (visiting member) research interests are in the field of empirical/applied micro/macro econometrics and labour economics, with a focus on education, crime, health, and the position of different groups in the labour market, such as: (1) Youth at risk of crime, unemployment, and teen pregnancy; (2) Labour market position of women – gender pay and pension gaps, career progression and glass ceiling; (3) Inequality and intergenerational mobility – equalisation of educational attainment of those from different socioeconomic backgrounds as an important tool for improving the equality of opportunity in society. For example, her published research in the area of economics of education focuses on private as well as social returns to education, in terms of long-term human capital accumulation and crime reduction. Geographic focus of her research has so far been the UK, the Netherlands, and the transition and emerging market economies in the Western Balkans (e.g., Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro). Sunčica's research reflects a steady trajectory of interdisciplinary approach, whereby she uses a rich set of econometric tools applied to multi-source (survey and recorded) and multi-dimensional (crosssectional, panel, time series) data. A choice of a particular research topic is usually driven by the policy concerns, data availability, funding source, potential for collaboration and/or own research interests based on wider academic and non-academic reading.

Research projects

Project title People and partners Funder
Beyond the wage: Changes in employment and compensation patterns in response to the national minimum wage Low Pay Commission
Incentives and Children's Dietary Choices Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Teen Childbearing and Education: Evidence from Education Expansion British Academy
Connecting Data across Public Services in Bath and North East Somerset Cabinet Office/BANES Council
NUDGE-IT The Neurobiology of Decision-Making in Eating - Innovative Tools FP7 EU

Current working papers

Title Paper series Author
The Cost of Binge Drinking University of Bath Working Paper, No. 36/15 Marco Francesconi and Jonathan James
The return to agricultural advice in Ethiopia: A rationale for a success story? University of Bath Working Paper, No. 35/15 Alexander Hamilton and John Hudson
Comparing Corruption in Ethiopia and Sudan University of Bath Working Paper, No. 34/15 Alexander Hamilton and John Hudson
Strategic Behavior in IEAs: When and Why Countries Joined the Kyoto Protocol University of Bern Working Paper 10-14 Almer, C., and Winkler, R.
The Effect of Kyoto Emission Targets on Domestic CO2 Emissions: A Synthetic Control Approach University of Bern Working Paper 12-02 Almer, C., and Winkler, R.
Climate (change) and conflict: resolving a puzzle of association and causation University of Bern Working Paper 12-03 Almer, C., and Boes, S.
Income Shocks and Social Unrest: Theory and Evidence MPRA Paper 34426 Almer, C., Laurent-Lucchetti, J., Oechslin, M.
How Do Housing Prices Adjust after an Environmental Shock? Evidence from a State-Mandated Change in Aircraft Noise Exposure University of Bath Working Paper, No. 11/12 Almer, C., Boes, S., and Nüesch, S.
Incentives and Children's Dietary Choices: A Field Experiment in Primary Schools University of Bath Working Paper, No. 25/14 Belot, M., James, J., and Nolen, P.
Partner Selection into Policy Relevant Field Experiments Edinburgh School of Economics Discussion Paper Series No. 236 Belot, M., James, J.
A New Perspective on the Issue of Selection Bias into Randomized Controlled Field Experiments University of Bath Working Paper, No. 23/14 Belot, M., James, J.
Peer Effects in Free School Meals: Information or Stigma?  EUI Max Weber Programme Working Paper Series No. 2012/11 James, J.
Career wage profiles and the minimum wage IZA Discussion Paper Series No. 8421 Papps, K.
Female labour supply and spousal education IZA Discussion Paper Series No. 5348 Papps, K.