Our objective is to engage in innovative research that extends the frontiers of the discipline, deepening our understanding of the operation of modern economies. Research spans almost all the major sub-fields of economics with particular strengths in microeconomic theory, including behavioural economics; econometrics, both micro-econometrics and time series; economic history and development and international economics.

The University of Oxford is ranked 8th in the world and 2nd in Europe in the most recent Tilburg University ranking of Economics departments, based on research contribution for the period between 2012-2016.

In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) to evaluate the research output of UK Universities, Oxford was first in overall research strength in Economics and Econometrics, with more research ranked as ‘world-leading’ than any other participating institution. In a submission of 84 FTE academics, 56% of our research was rated as ‘world-leading’ (4*) and a further 33% rated as ‘internationally excellent’ (3*).

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Policy and Impact

As one of Europe’s leading Economics departments, Oxford aims to inform and improve the development and implementation of economic and public policy in the UK and around the world. We do this by producing innovative research that extends the frontiers of the discipline and deepens our understanding of the operation of modern economies.

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Working Papers

Authors: Rick Van der Ploeg, Armon Rezai

Aug 2018

A simple integrated assessment framework that gives rules for the optimal carbon price, transition to the carbon-free era and stranded carbon assets is presented, which highlights the ethical, economic, geophysical and political drivers of optimal climate policy. For the ethics we discuss the role of intergenerational inequality aversion and the discount rate, where we show the importance of lower discount rates for appraisal of longer run benefit and of policy makers using lower discount rates than private agents. The economics depends on the costs and rates of technical progress in production of fossil fuel, its substitute renewable energies and sequestration. The geophysics depends on the permanent and transient components of atmospheric carbon and the relatively fast temperature response, and we allow for positive feedbacks. The politics stems from international free-rider problems in absence of a global climate deal. We show how results change if different assumptions are made about each of the drivers of climate policy. Our main objective is to offer an easy back-on-the-envelope analysis, which can be used for teaching and communication with policy makers.

JEL Codes: D81, H20, Q31, Q38

Keywords: simple rules, climate policy, ethics, economics, geophysics, politics, discounting with declining discount rates, positive feedback, free riding

Individual View

Authors: Thomas McGregor

Aug 2018

This paper uses a panel-VAR approach to estimate both the dynamic and structural macroeconomic response of resource-rich, low-income countries to global commodity price shocks. I use a block recursive ordering, as well as a simple Choleski decomposition, to identify structural commodity price shocks for a set of developing countries. The block recursive identification strategy assumes only that global macroeconomic conditions do not respond to individual low-income country conditions contemporaneously. The results suggest that a one standard deviation increase in commodity prices raises per capita income in developing countries by 0.26% and government spending and investment by 4.4% and 12.4%. The effects are larger for less developed countries, economies with fixed exchange rate regimes and those that are more depended on commodity exports. Commodity price shocks also result in significant transformation of these economies, with the share of value-added in manufacturing contracting by 0.17–0.22 percentage points. Whilst these effects may appear small, they represent the effect of exogenous commodity price shocks that are not due to changes in aggregate demand or global financial conditions. This suggests that commodity price movements alone may be less important in explaining the volatility of low-income country growth than other explanations. Taken together, these results present a more nuanced picture of the ‘resource curse’ in poor countries. Whilst per capital income levels are positively affected by resource booms, the potential for deindustrialisation does exist. The channel through which this link operates appears to be the real exchange rate, with resource booms leading to appreciation pressures. To illustrate the relevance of these results, I investigate the impact of the recent oil price collapseon the Nigerian economy.

JEL Codes: O11, O13, L16, Q02, C01, C33

Keywords: Dutch disease, Natural resources, Structural transformation, Panel-VAR

Individual View

Authors: Avner Offer

Aug 2018

Since the 1980s privatisation and outsourcing have been promoted on grounds of efficiency and fiscal convenience. The argument here is that the appropriate choice between business and public enterprise is determined by the interaction between two time horizons, a financial time horizon and a project time horizon. The prevailing interest rate defines a credit time horizon. Among  project appraisal methods, the payback period defines a unique temporal outer bound for private sector break-even. Net present value break-evens (and other forms of business credit) are always shorter. Any project which has a break-even longer than the payback period cannot be funded by business alone. Long-term projects encounter uncertainty and attempt to control it by means of rigid contracts, which also lead to inferior outcomes. This analysis accounts for historical patterns of enterprise. It also provides normative guidance.  Public-private partnerships for infrastructure development intended to overcome credit time boundaries. They have given rise to inefficiency and corruption and are currently in decline. It is possible to overcome the temporal boundary with a  ‘franchise’ i.e. protection from uncertainty provided by social and government agencies. This allows longer credit break-evens, but at a cost in competitive efficiency. It is also prone to corruption.  The time-horizon model undermines the standard argument for market superiority. It turns Hayek on his head: it is financial markets that require certainty, whereas social and public agencies manage in its absence.

JEL Codes: H4, H43, H44, L32, L33, L38

Individual View

Authors: John Muellbauer

Jul 2018

In housing affordability levels and volatility, there could hardly be a greater contrast than between the UK and Germany.  Differences in history, institutions and policies are explored in this paper. Residential housing supply has been far more expansionary in Germany and mortgage credit more tightly regulated. A sensibly regulated rental market and stable German house prices have combined to leave the rental sector with over half of tenures. Policy failures in the UK have resulted in widening intergenerational inequality, increased social exclusion, adversely affected productivity and growth and raised the risk of financial instability. Policy lessons are drawn for the UK, which go far beyond the remit of the immediately responsible Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

JEL Codes: R31; R21; H20; H24; G21; R38; R23

Keywords: Housing markets in the UK and Germany; housing affordability; property taxation; land value tax; land-use regulations; rent regulation; mortgage markets; house price volatility; residential mobility

Individual View

Authors: Robert C. Allen

Jul 2018

Abstract

Jane Humphries and Benjamin Schneider have assembled several large data bases of spinners’ production and wages that they believe disprove my view that high wages led to mechanization in eighteenth century England. This paper examines their data and shows that they have little value in understanding the incentives to mechanize. They collected thousands of observations of the earnings of women, but they do not know how many hours the spinners worked, so the data fail to establish whether their wage per hour (the relevant variable) was high or low. Another large sample of evidence concerned the production per day of spinners, but this information was mainly derived from schools and charity programs whose participants were selected because they were unproductive–so valid inferences about the productivity of women in general cannot be derived from these data. In addition, I present new evidence that substantiates my earlier
estimates of productivity and earnings. The High Wage Hypothesis is unimpaired by the critique of Humphries and Schneider.

JEL Codes: N13, N22, N63, O31

Keywords: industrial revolution, technical change, induced innovation

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