Recent publications (2020 or forthcoming)

Explaining variation in support for Basic Income

Building on my previous research published in the Basic Income Studies Journal in 2019, I carried a more systematic investigation of the Political Economy of individual level support for the basic income in Europe which has is now out in online first in the Journal of European Social Policy. In the process of exploring why different individual characeristics correlated with support for a BI, I became interested in why different parts of the Left are more or less supportive of a BI. This led me to work with Prof Hanna Schwander on different strands of left wing thought and how they may be associated with BI support. This has been accepted at Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy.

“The Political Economy of individual level support for the basic income in Europe” Journal of European Social Policy. ABSTRACT: There is a long-standing debate in academic and policymaking circles about the normative merits and economic effects of a universal basic income (UBI). However, existing literature does not sufficiently address the question of which factors are associated with individual support for a UBI. While a large literature in political economy has focused on individual preferences for existing welfare state benefits, it has not analysed the case of a UBI. Using the eighth wave of the European Social Survey (ESS), this article seeks to remedy this gap by analysing individual support for a UBI in 21 European countries. The findings from logistic regression analyses with country fixed effects are partly consistent with the expectations of previous social policy and political economy literatures. Younger, low-income, left-leaning individuals and the unemployed are more likely to support a UBI. Individuals with positive views of benefit recipients and/or high trust in political institutions are also more supportive, while anti-immigration attitudes are associated with lower support. By contrast, the patterns across occupations are mixed and male respondents appear slightly more supportive. Trade union membership is not statistically significant, perhaps because of contradictory effects: unions typically support new welfare state policies but they also have a key role in many existing welfare state schemes and may worry about individuals’ attachment to the labour market. At the cross-national level, support tends to be higher where benefit activation is more pronounced and unemployment benefits less generous. These results suggest one possible reason why countries with high support for a UBI have not introduced it: the mixed support among the left means a pro-UBI coalition has to draw on right-wing voters who may support it only with lower taxes and/or extensive replacement of welfare state benefits, which in turn may further alienate parts of the left.

“The Left and Universal Basic Income: The role of ideology in individual support” (with Hanna Schwander), Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy. ABSTRACT: Few studies analyse individual support for Universal Basic Income (UBI). This article theorises and explores empirically the relationship between different strands of left ideology and support for UBI across European countries. We delineate three types of concerns about capitalism: ‘Labourist Left’ worry about exploitation; ‘Libertarian Left’ about repression; and ‘Social Investment Left’ about inefficiencies. Contrary to expectations, our results based on data from the European Social Survey suggest that having high concerns about exploitation is positively correlated with support for UBI, whereas repression concerns are negatively correlated with support. In line with our hypothesis, left-leaning individuals with efficiency concerns are more likely to support UBI. Our findings call for more detailed surveys and further research on the different ideologies within the Left and how these relate to variation in support for UBI which would shed further light on the resulting potential coalition dynamics for a larger-scale introduction of UBI.

Political Economy of labour market dualisation and liberalization

Two articles on the political economy of labour market dualization and liberalization have also just come out. The first deals with the different ways to test the role of labour market dualization in shaping social policy preferences and is part of a special issue on the wider importance of dualization for political science, with contributions from David Rueda, Achim Kermmerling, Hanna Schwander, Silja Hausermann, Philip Rehm and Marius Busemeyer (and more). The second article (joint with Marco Simoni) tries to understand the patterns of labour market liberalization reforms in Europe since the 1980s. It argues this is the outcome of complex interactions between governments, partisanship, trade unions and the state of the Economy.

“The political consequences of labour market dualization: Labour market status, occupational unemployment and policy preferences” Political Science Research and Methods. ABSTRACT: This article explores empirically how different types of labour market inequality affect policy preferences in post-industrial societies. I argue that the two main conceptualisations of labour market vulnerability identified in the insider-outsider literature are complementary: Labour market risks are shaped by both labour market status-whether an individual is unemployed, in a temporary or permanent contract-and occupational unemployment-whether an individual is in an occupation with high or low unemployment. As a result, both status and occupation are important determinants of individual labour market policy preferences. In what follows, I first briefly conceptualise the link between labour market divides, risks and policy preferences and then use cross-national survey data to investigate the determinants of preferences.

“Labour Market Liberalization and the Rise of Dualism in Europe as the Interplay between Government, Trade Unions and the Economy” (with Marco Simoni), Social Policy & Administration. ABSTRACT: Why have labour market reforms varied so much across European countries in the 30 years preceding the economic crisis? We argue that the degree of liberalization over time in each country depends on the interaction between governments’ partisan leaning, the strength of trade unions and the economic problem-load pushing governments to adopt distinct labour market reform strategies. Building on existing literature, we interpret ‘dualizing’ labour market reforms as weaker forms of liberalization and test our argument on the cross‐national variation in over 200 labour market reforms carried out in 14 western European countries between 1985 and 2007. Our empirical results show that governments are less likely to liberalize if they face a strong union movement and the economic problem-load is low. However, even in countries with strong unions, opposition may not always manage to block change. First, as unemployment becomes more severe, unions’ ability to reduce the likelihood of liberalization strongly decreases. Second, trade unions often do not manage to prevent liberalization advanced by social democratic governments. Third, governments can devise three (non-rival) strategies to deflect opposition: (1) they can re-regulate parts of the labour market to protect certain workers from liberalization; (2) generous unemployment benefits can cushion the costs of liberalization, thereby increasing its likelihood; and (3) they can carry out two‐tier reforms to insulate insider (unionized) workers employed in permanent contracts, which limits union opposition. By identifying the complex interactions between variables that explain variation in labour market liberalization across European countries, this article contributes to our understanding of the evolution of European political economy.

Economic insecurity, anti-immigration attitudes and far right party support in Europe

Finally, two papers on the rise of far right parties in Europe were also published. They both deal, from different angles, with whether and how exactly concerns about immigration shape far right party support.

“‘Birds of a feather’? Assessing the prevalence of anti-immigration attitudes among the far-right electorate”, (with Daphne Halikiopoulou and Daniel Stockemer) Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. ABSTRACT: This article focuses on the prevalence of anti-immigration attitudes among the far-right electorate. Drawing on the distinction between the predictive power of immigration concerns, and the question of how widespread these concerns are among the far-right voter pool, we proceed in two steps. First, we assess the extent to which anti-immigration attitudes are a necessary condition for voting far right; and second we examine whether far right voters with different levels of anti-immigration attitudes exhibit similar individual and attitudinal characteristics. Using data from the 8 th wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) we find that, surprisingly, anti-immigration attitudes are not a necessary condition for voting for the far right as approximately one third of far-right voters have no concerns over immigration. We further show that far-right voters with different levels of immigration concerns have different profiles when it comes to other predictors of the far right-vote including ideological affinity, attachment to the EU and government satisfaction. Our contribution is significant as we suggest that there are different routes to voting for the far right by groups with different grievances, including non-immigration related.

“When economic and cultural interests align: the anti-immigration voter coalitions driving far right party success in Europe” (with Daphne Halikiopoulou) European Political Science Review. ABSTRACT: This article contests the view that the strong positive correlation between anti-immigration attitudes and far right party success constitutes evidence in support of the cultural grievance thesis and against the economic grievance thesis. We argue that far right party success depends on the ability to mobilise a coalition of interests between their core supporters, i.e. voters with cultural grievances over immigration and the, often, larger group of voters with economic grievances over immigration. Using individual level data from 8 rounds of the European Social Survey (ESS), our empirical analysis shows that while cultural concerns over immigration are a stronger predictor of far right party support, those who dislike the impact of immigration on the economy are important to the far right in numerical terms. Taken together, our findings suggest that economic grievances over immigration remain pivotal within the context of the transnational cleavage.

Oxford Supertracker: Global Directory for COVID Policy Trackers & Surveys

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many universities and international organisations have sought to create new data monitoring policies introduced to tackle COVID-19 and its repercussions on our economies and societies.

Together with my colleagues Mary Daly, Bernhard Ebbinghaus, Lukas Lehner, and Marek Naczyk at the department of social policy and intervention (DSPI), we have created the Oxford Supertracker: a global directory for COVID policy trackers and surveys. This supertracker makes it possible to search and identify different datasets on a variety of topics.

For more information, please visit the website and feel free to suggest new sources!

Covid-19 resources

Universities and academics:

Blavatnik, University of Oxford

Imperial College

Melinda Mills at University of Oxford

Organisations:

World Bank

European Trade Union Confederation

IMF

OECD

European Commission

Surveys:

International Survey on Covid

YouGov

VoxEU

Policy specific:

Long term care

Bruegel

OECD policy responses to Covid

Covid and health care capacity

Media:

FT

NYT

Guardian

Le Monde

Thomson Reuters

Modelling and data:

Epidemic calculator

Our World in Data

Bing

Dashboards

statnews

The Political Consequences of Labor Market Dualization

It took a while but my contribution to the symposium on dualization in PSRM is finally out in first view!

My article explores empirically how different types of labor market inequality affect policy preferences in post-industrial societies.

I argue that the two main conceptualizations of labor market vulnerability identified in the insider–outsider literature are complementary: labor market risks are shaped by both labor market status—whether an individual is unemployed, in a temporary or permanent contract—and occupational unemployment—whether an individual is in an occupation with high or low unemployment.

As a result, both status and occupation are important determinants of individual labor market policy preferences.

In this paper, I first briefly conceptualize the link between labor market divides, risks and policy preferences, and then use cross-national survey data to investigate the determinants of preferences.

Check out other papers in this symposium by Achim Kemmerling, Marius Busemeyer, Silja Hausermann, Hanna Schwander, Philip Rehm, Georg Picot, Paul Marx and David Rueda!

New paper on individual support for basic income in Europe

There is a long-standing debate in academic and policy making circles about the normative merits and economic effects of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). However, existing literature does not sufficiently address the question of the factors associated with individual support for a UBI. While a large literature in political economy has focused on individual preferences for existing welfare state benefits, it has not analysed the case of a UBI.

I seek to remedy this gap in a new journal article entitled “The Political Economy of individual level support for the basic income in Europe” forthcoming at the Journal of European Social Policy.

Using the eighth wave of the European Social Survey (ESS), I analyse individual support for a UBI in 21 European countries. The findings from logistic regression analyses with country fixed effects are partly consistent with the expectations of previous social policy and political economy literatures. Younger, low-income, left-leaning individuals and the unemployed are more likely to support a UBI. Individuals with positive views of benefit recipients, and/or high trust in political institutions are also more supportive, while anti-immigration attitudes are associated with lower support.

However, the patterns across occupations is mixed and male respondents appear slightly more supportive. Trade union membership is not statistically significant, perhaps because of contradictory effects: unions typically support new welfare state policies but they also have a key role in many existing welfare state schemes and may worry about individuals’ attachment to the labour market. At the country level, support tends to be higher where activation is more pronounced and unemployment benefits less generous.

Taken together, these results suggest one possible reason why countries with large support for a UBI have not introduced it: the mixed support among the Left means a pro-UBI coalition has to draw on right-wing voters who may support it only with lower taxes and/or extensive replacement of welfare state benefits, which in turn may further alienate parts of the Left.

For more information  you can access the PDF of the article

The Politics of Universal Basic Income

The Universal Basic Income (UBI) has a long history. The idea to provide all citizens with an unconditional and regular income cash benefit without means-test or requirement[1] has been discussed as far back as the 18th century[2].

Thinkers on the right are attracted to its simplicity, which contrasts with the current complex welfare state arrangements in most advanced economies, its minimalism and its low adverse effects on work incentives, since it is paid irrespective of labour market participation.

On the left, people emphasise its universalism and unconditionality which would reduce the gaps in coverage of current benefits and ensure labour is decommodified, thereby increasing the power of workers to bargain for better working conditions and wages.

Its detractors are similarly located across the ideological spectrum. Many liberal economists see UBI as prohibitively expensive and inefficient insofar as it directs resources to those who may not need them.

Others on the left see UBI as a dangerous legitimisation of capitalism and an implicit acceptance that not everyone will be provided a job. They also emphasise UBI’s limited ability to address all the social risks that individuals face in a market economy.

Finally, some trade unions, particularly in Bismarckian welfare regimes, oppose what they see as releasing employers of their social responsibility. Trade unions also voice concerns that this will reduce their institutional power which lies in their key role in managing the administration of social insurance benefits.

Continue reading “The Politics of Universal Basic Income”

Brexit and bargaining power: UK and EU compared

Europe (including UK) UK
GDP (purchasing power parity) $19.18 trillion (2016 est.) $2.788 trillion (2016 est.)
GDP (official exchange rates) $16.27 trillion (2015 est.) $2.65 trillion (2015 est.)
GDP growth 1.9% (2016 est.) 1.8% (2016 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP) $37,800 (2016 est.) $42,500 (2016 est.)
industry share of GDP 25.50% 19.20%
Labour force 232.9 million 33.17 million (2016 est.)
Unemployment 9.5% (2015 est.) 5.1% (2016 est.)
Population below poverty line 9.80% 15% (2013 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) -3% of GDP -3.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
Public Debt 86.8% of GDP (2014) 92.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
Inflation rate 0.1% (2015 est.) 0.5% (2016 est.)
Population 515,052,778 (July 2016 est.) 64,430,428 (July 2016 est.)
65 years and over  19.1% (2016 est.) 17.90%
Life expectancy at birth 80.2 years 80.7 years
Hospital bed density 5.4 beds/1,000 population 2.9 beds/1,000 population (2011)
Infant mortality rate 4 deaths/1,000 live births 4.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Source: CIA world factbook [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/]

Being unemployed in the US after the Obama presidency

Obama was elected in 2008 during the height of the crisis with much expectations that he would improve the conditions of the least well-off in American society. As his term nears its end, I use the latest OECD data to assess how unemployed individuals fare now compared to both other developed countries and to when he started his term.

In a nutshell, I show that in all plausible scenarios, individuals in the initial phase of unemployment are worse off in the US than in a median OECD or EU country and their relative situation has gotten worse since 2007, especially if they are in the middle class.

OECD data

The OECD has data on the net replacement rates for six family types in the initial phase of unemployment. The latest data available is 2014 so it is in principle plausible – though unlikely – that the situation has improved massively in the last two years and that this is not captured by my data. Note further the emphasis on the initial phase of unemployment: after a certain time in unemployment – which varies by country – unemployed lose eligibility to certain benefits (or experience falls in the replacement rate).

The OECD tax-benefit Model allows you to specify the marital situation of the family (single, one earner married couple, and two earners married couple) and whether they have children (in this case no children versus two children) for different levels of the average wage.

For simplicity I show the replacement rate for a case when the family does not qualify for cash housing assistance or social assistance in either the in-work or out-of-work situation. I also do not consider the case of earners with 150% of average wage.

The situation in 2014

Figure 1 shows the difference between the US and the EU/OECD average replacement rates in 2014. As an example consider the case of a single person with no children earning 67% of the average wage prior to becoming unemployed. In the US, the person would get 61% out of work income as a percentage of previous earnings equal to 67% of the average wage. The equivalent OECD median is 65% while the EU median is 68% so the gap between the US and the OECD median is 4 percentage points while it is 7 percentage points between the US and the EU.

Comparing different family and income situations reveals that the US is least generous compared to the OECD and EU median for ‘middle class’ (100% of average wages) families that are composed of lone parents with 2 children. The next biggest gap between the US and the OECD/EU median is for low income families with either one earner couple or a lone parent.

By contrast, low income families (67% of average wage) with two earners with or without two children would fare almost exactly the same in terms of replacement rate in the median OECD and EU country as in the US.

Figure 1: The difference between the US and the EU/OECD average replacement rates in 2014

EU US gap in 2014

Cross-national variation

In Figure 2, I show the 2014 cross-national variation in the replacement rate for a single earner with no children that does not qualify for cash housing assistance or social assistance and had previous earnings of 67% of average wage. This reveals that the US is not the worse country among developed countries (the worse is not surprisingly the UK – though note that the situation does not quite look as dire for the UK if the family qualifies for cash housing assistance). But it is located in the bottom half of the ranking.

Figure 2: 2014 replacement rate for a single earner with no children that does not qualify for cash housing assistance or social assistance and had previous earnings of 67% AW

Figure 3

Changes since 2007

In 2014, the average across all family types and both income situations for the US is 59% compared to 70% for the OECD median and 71% for the EU median. This represents a fall from 2007 where the average was 62% for the US, 60% for the OECD and 71% for the EU median.

Figure 3 shows how the gap between the US and the EU has evolved between 2007 and 2014 for different family-income scenarios. Positive values indicate that there has been an increase in the gap between what a person would get in a median EU country and what they would get in the US. Thus for instance, we see that the biggest increases in the gap has been for one  earner married couple with no children that earned 100% of the average wage prior to becoming unemployed and a single person with no children also earning 100% of the average wage prior to becoming unemployed. The next biggest increase has occurred for a lone parent with two children.

Thus, over the Obama presidency, the welfare of vulnerable middle class families in the US relative to their counterpart in the Europe has gotten worse. This is a striking result given the significant retrenchment of European welfare states that has taken place in Europe between 2008 and 2014 (the period under consideration here).

Figure 3: The difference between the EU-US gap in 2007 and in 2014

Change between 2014 and 2007.jpgDisappointing but not surprising

While disappointing, the falling welfare of the unemployed in the US is not entirely surprising from a theoretical perspective. The welfare state literature makes clear that liberal welfare regimes’ structure (e.g. targeted means tested benefits) limit the popular support for generous welfare state benefits for the unemployed that are seen as particularly undeserving.

As Rehm brillantly discusses in his latest book “Risk inequality and Welfare state“, countries with concentrated risks of unemployment among low income workers are less likely to exhibit pro-welfare state cross-class coalitions. At the same time, the US type of capitalism limits the power of the unions while making it unlikely that employers will consent – in the words of Korpi – to more generous social policies (see Varieties of Capitalism literature).

As a result, where there is no clear efficiency imperative (e.g. Obamacare in the context of objective inefficiencies in the health care sector in the US), it is therefore difficult even for a left leaning government to undertake an expansion of welfare state policies.

Regulations in ‘rigid’ labour markets are less likely to be enforced

How difficult is it to fire a worker in different countries?

To answer this question, most social scientists have created many indicators that capture the conditions, costs and uncertainty associated with firing an employee.

For instance the OECD Employment Protection Legislation (EPL) index measures “the procedures and costs involved in dismissing individuals or groups of workers and the procedures involved in hiring workers on fixed-term or temporary work agency contracts”

The determinants and consequences of EPL

This index is then used in statistical analysis to assess the impact of EPL on economic outcomes, such as unemployment, or to identify the determinants of EPL reforms, for instance partisanship.

The conventional wisdom is that EPL has adverse economic consequences (studies by IMF and OECD, Layard, Botero and others), but the stability of the findings to different specification has been contested (for instance see work by Baker, Avdagic and others).

Employment Protection Legislation: rules versus enforcement

For a long time a more obvious problem has been that legal restrictions on firing can only be expected to have any effects on labour market performance if the legislation is actually enforced on the ground.

The issue here is not so much that employment protection legislation might not enforced (which is likely) but more importantly that it might be enforced to varying degrees in different countries in ways that we cannot observed.

New database on enforcement

This shortcoming is now being partly addressed in recent research by Kanbur and Ronconi published in the Centre for Economic Policy Research.

In a shorter version of the paper they have published in VoX they explain how they created a new indicator of enforcement that combines both inspections and penalties.

Their results are interesting in at least two respects

  1. First, once they control for their measure of enforcement in a statistical analysis of the determinant of labour market performance, EPL no longer has a statistically significant adverse effect for most measures of performance. In other words, labour market regulations do not in fact seem to have a consistent effect on labour market outcomes.
  2. Second, they show that countries with more stringent EPL have lower enforcement levels, which then makes it difficult to know which country’s labour market really is more ‘rigid’. This is shown in the figure below that plots a de jure employment index on the horizontal axis and their enforcement index on the vertical axis.

Interpreting the figure: some country examples

The ranking should be interpreted as follows: countries which are lower on the scale have higher ranking and hence more protective institutions or more enforcement. Thus for instance, while Canada and Denmark have among the lowest ranking in de jure employment protection (they are not in the top 150 countries), they rank really high in terms of enforcement (in top 25). By contrast, France and Spain score high on EPL but do not rank well in terms of enforcement: their stringent regulations are not well-enforced compared to many other countries.

Figure: Enforcement and labour law

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The Impact of the Elderly on Inflation Rates in Developed Countries

My latest working paper on the relationship between ageing and inflation has just come out as an LSE working paper. You can access it here.

And here is the abstract:

What explains the cross-national variation in inflation rates in developed countries? Previous literature has emphasised the role of ideas and institutions, and to a lesser extent interest groups, while leaving the role of electoral politics comparatively unexplored. This paper seeks to redress this neglect by focusing on one case where electoral politics matters for inflation: the share of the population above 65 years old in a country. I argue that countries with a larger share of elderly have lower inflation because older people are both more inflation averse and politically powerful, forcing governments to pursue lower inflation. I test my argument in three steps. First, logistic regression analysis of survey data confirms older people are more inflation averse. Second, panel data regression analysis of party manifesto data reveals that European countries with more old people have more economically orthodox political parties. Third, time series cross-section regression analyses demonstrate that the share of the elderly is negatively correlated with inflation in both a sample of 21 advanced OECD economies and a larger sample of 175 countries. Ageing may therefore push governments to adopt a low inflation regime.