On 1 May 2016, Jo Blanden became the new Principal Investigator of the research project, Delivering Better for Less: Improving Productivity in the Public Services.
This large scale 5 year, £1million, study is being fully funded under the Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award.
The promotion of greater opportunity is a central goal of public policy; part of the “defining challenge of our time”, according to President Obama. So why is the creation of a more mobile society a legitimate goal, as opposed to equal outcomes, happiness or efficiency? What is the basis for a focus on social mobility?
Jo's research interests lie broadly in the fields of labour and family economics. Jo's PhD was on the topic of intergenerational income mobility. Her work with Paul Gregg and Steve Machin on 'Changes in Intergenerational Mobility in Britain' found that the relationship between family income and children's adult earnings has strengthened for those born in 1970 compared to those born in 1958; this finding has attracted a large amount of policy and media interest. Jo's recent paper with Stephen Machin (January 2017), on 'Home Ownership and Social Mobility' found that home ownership rates have fallen rapidly. For individuals born in 1970 home ownership rates shrunk disproportionately for those whose parents were not home owners when they were children. These results reinforce a picture of falling social mobility in Britain.
Jo has continued to write about intergenerational mobility. She has published work on international comparisons and on how using different measures of mobility changes conclusions. In addition she has looked at how obtaining qualifications in adulthood affects individuals' earnings. Recent work with Lindsey Macmillan seeks to understand how social mobility is affected by educational expansion.
Her current projects continue to explore the topic of social mobility in the UK, with joint work with Lindsey Macmillan, Paul Gregg, Luke Sibieta and Ellen Greaves seeking to understand the impressive school performance of children in London, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
She has a research grant to look at the impact of nursery attendance on children's outcomes (with Sandra McNally and Kirstine Hansen) which is now part of a larger collaboration with Birgitta Rabe and Emilia Del Bono. This work indicates that the £2bn a year invested in part-time early education appears to have quite small educational benefits.
Jo's discussion paper with Kirstine Hansen and Sandra McNally (February 2017) on 'Quality in Early Years Settings and Children’s School Achievement' gives surprising results on the impact of highly qualified staff on nursery quality. This paper has attracted considerable media attention including the BBC and The Telegraph and was discussed in a recent blog by The Family and Childcare Trust.
In May 2016, Jo became Principal Investigator for the Leverhulme Trust funded research project, Delivering Better for Less: Improving Productivity in the Public Services. Please visit the Delivering Better for Less website for further information, including the Better for Less Discussion Paper Series.
Stephen Machin, London School of Economics (intergenerational mobility)
Sandra McNally, Surrey and London School of Economics, various projects
Lindsey Macmillan, Institute of Education (intergenerational mobility)
Kirstine Hansen, Institute of Education; Birgitta Rabe and Emilia Del Bono, ISER University of Essex (the impact of nurseries)
ECOD 021 Empirical Microeconomics
Visiting Research Fellow at the London School of Economics
Projects at the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE)
The distribution of education by social background and the mobility prospects of society are intimately connected. To begin to predict future trends in mobility in the UK we bring together evidence on educational inequality by family background for cohorts from 1958 to 2000 for a range of educational outcomes. There is evidence that educational inequalities have narrowed among recent cohorts as the overall level of educational achievement has increased. This could be promising for mobility provided the labour market returns to these qualifications are maintained. However, stubborn inequalities by background at higher attainment levels imply that narrowing inequalities and expanding equality of opportunity throughout the educational distribution is a difficult task.
This paper studies the effect of free pre-school education on child outcomes in primary school. We exploit the staggered implementation of free part-time pre-school for three-yearolds across Local Education Authorities in England in the early 2000s. The policy led to small improvements in attainment at age five, with no apparent benefits by age 11. We argue that this is because the expansion of free places largely crowded out privately paid care, with small changes in total participation, and was achieved through an increase in private provision, where quality is lower on average than in the public sector.
This article seeks evidence on trends in intergenerational income for cohorts born after 1970. As many of these cohorts have not yet joined the labour market, we must look at relationships between intermediate outcomes (degree attainment, test scores and non-cognitive abilities) and parental income to forecast forward from these to estimates of intergenerational earnings correlations. We find no evidence that the relationship between these intermediate outcomes and parental income have changed for more recent cohorts. Evidence from the earlier 1958 and 1970 cohorts shows that as mobility declined in the past the relationship between intermediate outcomes and parental income strengthened. We therefore conclude that, under realistic assumptions and in the absence of any significant unanticipated changes, the decline in intergenerational mobility that occurred between 1958 and 1970 birth cohorts is unlikely to continue for cohorts born from 1970 to 2000. Mobility is therefore likely to remain at or near the relatively low level observed for the 1970 birth cohort.
London is an educational success story, with especially good schooling results for more disadvantaged pupils. This is a dramatic reversal of fortunes. This paper uses a combination of administrative and survey data to document these improvements and understand more about why the performance of disadvantaged pupils in London has improved so much. First of all we consider the timing of the improvement. We show that the London advantage for poor children was present in primary and secondary schools from the mid-1990s. This is well before the introduction of many recent policies that have previously been cited as the reasons for London’s success, such as the London Challenge or Academies programme. Differences in the ethnic mix of pupils can explain some of the higher level of performance, but only about one sixth of the growth over time. Instead, the majority is explained by rising prior attainment (pupils entering secondary school with better age 11 test scores) and a reduced negative contribution of having many disadvantaged children in school. Data from the Millennium Cohort Study shows that disadvantaged pupils in London have no advantage compared to those in the rest of England at age 5, but then show faster improvements between age 5 and 11 once they have started school. Taken together, our evidence suggests improvements in London’s schools seem to be mainly attributable to gradual improvements in school quality rather than differences or changes in the effects of pupil and family characteristics. Closer examination of the policies and practice in London from the mid to late 1990s could provide valuable lessons as to how educational performance can be boosted among disadvantaged groups.
'Reducing Inequality in Education and Skills: Implications for Economic Growth' with Sandra McNally
European Expert Network on the Economics of Education Analytical Report No. 21 February 2015.
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Expiry Date: Friday 15 April 2011 14:25:07
Assembly date: Mon Mar 27 09:13:10 BST 2017
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