Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Bath hosts applied micro-economics workshop

Mon Jan 27 11:33:00 GMT 2014

The second Bath-Bristol applied micro workshop has taken place in Bath (the first workshop took place in Bristol in June 2013). The Bath-Bristol workshop is jointly organized by the Departments of Economics in Bristol and Bath, Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) in Bristol, and Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy (CASP) in Bath.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together applied labour and micro-economics researchers in Bath and Bristol, who would present their latest research, open up a discussion, as well as identify potential for future joint collaborations. 

"The workshop was well attended by both Bath and Bristol participants and spurred a lively discussion throughout the workshop duration and post-workshop social drinks," said organiser Suncica Vujic, Lecturer in Economics. "It is important that the researchers in the area of applied microeconomics have the opportunity to present their latest research ‘at home’, before attending national and international conferences and events. Opening a dialogue between Bath and Bristol would further enable us to identify potential future joint collaborations."

The next applied micro workshop will take place in June 2014, possibly also involving applied microeconomics researchers from GW research partners the University of Cardiff and the University of Exeter.


Simon Burgess  (University of Bristol), Matt Dickson (University of Bath) & Lindsey Macmillan  (Institute of Education)

Selective Education and Wages 

There is much debate in England concerned with the existing inequality in access to high quality schools. Which system for assigning students to schools is better at reducing inequality and promoting social mobility is contested, with grammar schools frequently proposed by some as a pro-social mobility policy option. Rather than focusing on the impact of grammar attendance (or not) on the marginal student who just passes (fails) the 11-plus exam, this paper considers the impact of the grammar school system on the level of inequality in the whole of the earnings distribution later in life.


Rachel Griffith (Institute for Fiscal Studies), Stephanie Scholder (University of Bristol) & Sarah Smith (University of Bristol)

Getting a Healthy Start? Nudge Versus Economic Incentives in Promoting Healthy Eating

With rising obesity and diet-related health problems, policy-makers are increasingly interested in how to encourage people to make better dietary choices. Standard economic incentives are one potential policy tool. These can affect diet through changes in relative prices (eg Mexico's soda tax). There has also been growing interest in "nudges" which attempt to affect behaviour by changing the way choices are presented to people (eg by making healthy foods more prominent). We use the introduction of Healthy Start Vouchers in the UK to compare the relative effectiveness of the two types of policy (economic incentives and nudge). The vouchers were give to low-income households with young children to spend on fruit, veg and milk. They provided strong economic incentives to increase fruit and veg spending for one group of recipients and a potential nudge (in the form of a labelling effect) for all recipients. Previous work has shown that labelling income in this way can affect behaviour in the absence of changes in economic incentives, but we find no such effect. The vouchers did increase spending on fruit and veg, but the full effect came through the economic incentives. Our findings suggest that there may be limits on the effectiveness of nudge policies to change dietary behaviour.


Helen Simpson  

Social Networks in the Boardroom 

To what extent are new appointments to corporate boards made through the educational and social networks of current members and potential members? In 2011, the independent review of Women on Boards led by Lord Davies recommended that FTSE 100 boards should aim for 25% female membership by 2015. In examining low levels of female representation, the Review found that ‘the informal networks influential in board appointments, the lack of transparency around selection criteria and the way in which executive search firms operate, were together considered to make up a significant barrier to women reaching boards. Our research is examining these informal networks and the role played by social ties in board appointments and the careers of company executives. The early findings suggest that social connections –t hrough membership of elite private members’ clubs and golf clubs – may still play a role in boardroom appointments. This implies that reduced reliance on such networks will be necessary to increase board diversity.

Paul Gregg, Susan Harkness & Marina Fernandez-Salgado

The changing nature of lone parenthood and its consequences