My research sits within Applied Microeconomics, often focused on the econometrics of consumer and family choice.
My research has three main themes. First, I develop empirical methods to bring new models of decision-making to data. Much of behavioural economics is confined to lab experiments because it is difficult to measure and quantify irrationality. I ask what we can learn from real-world data about the drivers (rational or irrational) of choices and develop practical tools for applied researchers to use in their work. Another key research stream concerns family decision-making. Poor data and restrictive models often mean that economists end up making strong assumptions about how families behave, increasing the risk of unintended consequences when formulating policy. In 2020, I was awarded an ERC Starting Grant to develop this research agenda.
Second, I expoit large-scale datasets to better understand modern labour markets. I have a number of projects using job vacancy text to provide new insights on changing employment contracts and diversity in the workplace. A particular interest is in understanding why gender inequalities persist.
Third, I develop frameworks for quantifying access to justice in the UK legal system. There have been a big reforms in the process by which individuals can enforce their rights. Alongside Jeremias Adams-Prassl, I analyse the impact of these changes on claimants and provide theoretical frameworks for assessing the legality of reforms. Our work on employment tribunal fees led to the UK Supreme Court declaring them unlawful in 2017.
Prices versus preferences: taste change and revealed preference
A systematic approach for incorporating taste variation into a revealed preference framework for heterogeneous consumers is developed. We create a new methodology that enables the recovery of the minimal variation in tastes that are required to rationalise observed choice patterns. This approach is used to examine the extent to which changes in tobacco consumption have been driven by price changes or by taste changes, and whether the significance of these two channels varies across socioeconomic groups. A censored quantile approach is used to allow for unobserved heterogeneity and censoring of consumption. Statistically significant educational differences in the marginal willingness to pay for tobacco are recovered. More highly educated cohorts are found to have experienced a greater shift in their effective tastes away from tobacco.