Having children: A guide for (couple) survival

Parenting is hard. Having children changes the dynamic of the parents’ romantic relationship and affects the balance between housework and a person’s career. In most cases, mothers make greater sacrifices in terms of their time and ability to work, whereas father’s rarely have access to as much parental leave. Using data from the UK, this column shows the arrival of a first child has a negative effect on the parents’ relationship quality. This is largely driven by the wider effect of the mother having to forego professional work in place of household tasks.

Climate change: Feeling the heat but keeping it cool

People feel differently about climate change depending on where they live. Taking data from 194 European regions, this column presents a staggering paradox: people living in regions most affected by rising temperatures are less concerned about climate change and show surprising optimism about its reversibility. In contrast, inhabitants of colder regions exhibit more pessimism. Examining migration patterns and regional priorities provides potential explanations for this surprising fact. The most affected regions in the study are also those facing acute economic and financial challenges, which might explain why climate change is not prioritised. The most pessimistic and concerned individuals may have also already migrated, leaving behind an optimistic population in the regions most at risk.

Graduation nation: Who benefited from increased UK university admissions?

Access to university has expanded significantly over the last five decades, and plans for further growth figure prominently on many policy agendas. This column examines the enlargement of post-secondary education in the UK after 1970. The authors argue that expanding university access corresponded with a decline in both the average intelligence of graduates and the wage premium across cohorts. Those who benefited from the expansion were primarily less able students from advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, and not the high-ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds the policy was designed to reach.

Dust to dust: How natural air pollution induces work accidents

Air pollution can increase the risk of workplace injury. Workers breathing in harmful pollutants, including dust, are more likely to lose focus, experience fatigue and even become less patient. These factors can lead to a greater risk of getting hurt, from misusing a machine or by falling over. This column takes data from Spain, exploring how dust precipitation affects workplace accidents. The authors find evidence to show that a day of dust precipitation induces an average 1.2% increase in workplace accidents, compared with days with no dust. They argue that firms and policymakers should be wary of the risks posed by pollution, both directly to people’s health but also through increasing their risk of having an accident.

Work life balance: Gender norms and the Swedish labour market

Gender identity norms are possible drivers of persistent gender inequalities in the labour market. But the extent to which such norms restrict the behaviour of couples is debated. This column examines how Swedish households changed their professional and housework balance in response to the introduction of a tax credit that altered the relative take-home pay in different ways for spouses within couples. The research shows that immigrant couples, who tend to come from countries with more traditional gender norms than Sweden, responded more strongly to a reduction in the husband’s tax rate than the wife’s. By not responding to women’s tax cuts, these couples may forgo as much as £2,000 per year in household disposable income.

Financing the green transition: The political economy of investment tax credits

Green policies create economic winners and losers and the unequal distribution of these gains and losses across the population raises questions about the political viability of such measures. This column explores how best to finance the green transition, presenting evidence from a theoretical study of the impact of the introduction of Incentive Tax Credits (ITCs) into a model economy. The authors argue that a mix of debt- and tax-financed ITCs can be used to incentivise investment in green capital, while guaranteeing that most of the population would support the scheme, both at the time of introduction and in the distant future. Without viable political support, there is little hope of getting urgently required policies off the ground.

Pollution solution: The role of scrubbers in cutting emissions and improving health

Air pollution hurts both people and planet, with emissions contributing to higher hospitalisations and deaths in countries around the world. Coal is particularly harmful but remains an important energy source worldwide. This presents policy-makers with a tricky trade-off between energy supply, emissions goals and human health. But technology can help. This column presents evidence from the United States, exploring how the installation of systems called ‘scrubbers’ on coal power station exhausts can reduce SO2 emissions, leading to lower instances of heart disease in nearby and downwind areas. This research could help clarify cost benefit analyses of different climate measures, while also feeding into policies promoting health.

Sailing with Artificial Intelligence: Recommendation systems and digital markets

In this complex digital age, people’s lives are greatly simplified by recommendation systems – AI algorithms that make it easier for online users to find the things they like in a vast ocean of options. These systems have profound impacts on individuals’ decisions and market outcomes. On one hand, they provide a higher match value than when individuals autonomously engage in a costly search for their preferred items. On the other hand, they lead to substantial market concentration and prompt sellers to raise their prices. Although our research generally indicates a positive net effect, the complex influence of these AI tools on economic outcomes requires careful examination and understanding.

Effective supervision and self – confidence : A balancing act

Effective feedback is crucial for career progression. Many women drop out of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields because they lack confidence in their abilities to succeed in these areas. One reason for this could be how supervisors give feedback. This column presents evidence suggesting that supervisors may hesitate to provide critical feedback to employees, particularly women with lower self-confidence. Instead, they might offer them overly positive feedback, hindering their performance in the long run. Getting the balance right between honesty and encouragement is vital.

Fighting fire with fire : Countering political populism

Populism is on the rise around the world. For mainstream political parties, this trend represents an existential threat, as disenfranchised voters flock to support new populist groups. The most effective way to respond to the challenge posed by populist parties is an open question and is explored in this column using evidence from Italy. One option is to try to de-bunk the populists, unpicking their campaigns and exposing the flaws in their promises using a fact-based approach. But this can simply push voters further to the fringes, on a tide of anti-expert sentiment. The other option is to fight fire with fire and go after the populists, using their own tactics against them. But this approach, it turns out, can have concerning unintended consequences.