Economic inactivity - long term sickness 1993-2013

Social fracking

In fracking, fissures in underground shale are blasted open by injecting a combination of liquid, sand and chemicals under high pressure to release the natural gas which is dispersed in small quantities throughout the rock. I don’t know enough about the process and its potential risks to take a strong view on the subject ( I totally pilfered that description from a couple of web articles). But it offers a near-irresistable metaphor for the Conservatives' 2015 electoral strategy (the one they’ve been following since June 2010).

UK expenditure on disability in international perspective

How does UK expenditure on benefits and services for disabled people compare with spending in other countries? To answer that question, we need a framework in which spending in countries with very different policies and institutions can be assessed on a fair basis. Fortunately, such a framework exists - in fact, there are two frameworks, one from the OECD and one from Eurostat.

The forward march of women's labour halted?

Alan Manning draws attention to the stagnation of women's economic progress here . Looking at the fortunes of successive birth cohorts of women*, there has been no reduction in the gender pay gap for women born around 1990 compared to those born ten years earlier. More strikingly, women born around 1980 faced a similar gender pay gap by their late thirties to women born around 1970.

Mythologising the north-south divide

The idea that employment in the northern regions of England is overwhelmingly dependent on the state is one of the more pervasive myths about the UK labour market. I'd suggest that its persistence owes a lot to the ideological narratives it serves to underpin, on both the left and the right.

Causality schmausality: the employment impact of the benefit cap

What is the evidence that the government's benefit cap is 'having the desired effect' and moving people into work? As the policy was only rolled out this week, we can only ask about how people's anticipation of the cap might have affected decisions, but on the evidence offered by DWP, very few people could plausibly be held to have moved into work in response to the cap. This apparent lack of response would throw the claimed rationale for the cap into question if that rationale had any credibility in the first place. Meanwhile, people should worry less about whether the government is confusing correlation with causality and focus on how weak the causal impact of the cap on employment would be on the most generous assumptions.

Caveat: this post does not attempt to estimate the impact of the cap and the percentages I've calculated are purely illustrative. The conclusion is not that X% of people meet the basic criteria for 'moving into work in reponse to the cap'. It is that the percentage is very small on the weak evidence we have.

Beliefs, attitudes and public misperceptions

Here's a chart based on research Ben Baumberg, Kate Bell & I carried out for the charity Turn2Us last year

Nothing less than the second best: why we transfer income

Partly inspired by a seminar given by Elizabeth Anderson at the IPPR on 13 June, in which the question of how far egalitarians should rely on income redistribution was debated. I argue that our main form of income redistribution, the social security system, achieves some equalisation of income but only as a by-product of poverty reduction. Egalitarian aims go far beyond poverty reduction, I guess, so the implication is that egalitarian strategies sit alongside the objectives of social security rather than informing them or- as some seem to feel these days- competing with them. To say that social security is mainly about reducing poverty, and that that's no bad thing, is not of course to say that poverty reduction in any way defines the limits of social justice, or that other welfare state functions do not serve broader egalitarian objectives.

Median income in 2011/12 lower than in 2001/02

A quick chart based on today's Households Below Average Income publication Real terms median income is shown before and after housing costs from 1994/5 to 2011/12. The median is slightly lower in 2011/12 than in 2001/02 on both measures.

Benefits. Housing. Scandal. Work.

This text is based on the most common words in a random sample of articles about social security appearing in the Daily Express between 2008 and 2011. The text was automatically generated with the word-order strictly following the frequency with which the words occurred (in descending order of frequency). My only interventions were to break the resulting sequence of words into three-line groupings, with the first four words forming the title and the last four a final free-standing line. Because of the limited and simple vocabulary used in this type of tabloid story, it's perhaps not surprising that the automatic procedure generates what may appear to be coherent phrases. And because of the nature of that vocabulary, these phrases are rather ugly.

I can't remember what prompted me to do this, but I find the result interesting as well as repellent.