Applied Microeconomics Group

The applied microeconomics group researches a variety of areas including labour economics, education, health, and family economics, consumption and demand, the economics of sport and crime, international trade and development economics. 

Our research

The group consistently publishes in world-class journals such as the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of the European Economic Association, the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, the Journal of International Economics, Journal of Development Economics, and Labour Economics. Another example of the group’s achievements is Jo Blanden’s and Sonia Oreffice’s ranking among RePEc’s top 6% and 8% most cited female economists, respectively, as of December 2016.

The group attracts research funding from a number of sources including the Nuffield Foundation, the Sutton Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  It is also home to the Leverhulme Trust funded programme Delivering Better for Less: Improving Productivity in the Public Services, this programme has five full-time researchers led by Jo Blanden.  Sandra McNally is currently on research leave at the London School of Economics where she directs the Centre for Vocational Education Research (CVER), funded by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

The high quality research produced by the group has led to links with UK Government Departments including the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Health. We also have related links to think tanks and pressure groups such as the Law Society, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Family and Daycare Trust. Internationally, members have advisory positions with the European Committee for Standardisation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the BELSPO Belgium and ongoing collaborations with the World Bank.

The group organizes regular dedicated seminars, and specialist workshops, the most recent of which explored the “Effects of early interventions on child health and education” and gathered internationally-known scholars in education, labour, and health economics.


This project investigated the impact of nursery education on children's cognitive and social development. It focused on the expansion in nursery education since 1998, which led to free part-time nursery education for three and four-year-olds and a large increase in the number of nursery places.

In January 2018 the project was launched with a report and event at the Nuffield Foundation on 11 January 2018. Click here to view the press release.


  • Free part-time nursery places for three-year-olds enabled some children to do better in assessments at the end of Reception, but overall educational benefits are small and do not last
  • Between 1999 and 2007, the proportion of three-year-olds in England benefitting from a free nursery place rose from 37% to 88%. However, for every four children given a free place, only one additional child began to use early education. For the other three children, the policy gave parents a discount on the early education that they would have paid for in any case
  • While there was modest evidence that the policy had more impact on the poorest, most disadvantaged children, the policy did not close the gap in attainment between those from richer and poorer families in the longer term
  • A weak relationship between the characteristics of PVI nurseries and children's outcomes was found. Children taught by a highly qualified staff member and those who attended settings rated as Outstanding by Ofsted scored slightly higher on the Foundation Stage Profile. However, the research found there were substantial unexplained differences in outcomes between nurseries
  • Eligibility for an additional term of free part-time early education results in a very small increase in outcomes at age five. There is some evidence that an extra term of entitlement is more beneficial for children who attend settings highly rated by Ofsted, but effects are still small.

Project outputs

Media coverage

This project has attracted considerable media attention including the BBC and The Telegraph and was discussed in a blog by The Family and Childcare Trust.


Postgraduate research students

Name Research interests
Jin Wang Labour Economics
Sumaiya Rahman Labour Economics

Contact us

  • Phone: +44 (0)1483 689380

Find us

School of Economics
Elizabeth Fry Building
University of Surrey