Winning work, losing rights and confusing Christmases

Top of the Charts

Afternoon all,

I’m only just keeping up with the omniscandals this week. It seems to involve a baby being born, a Christmas party and a rich bloke bringing gifts (it’s unclear if Frankincense was thrown in with the posh wallpaper). This is about as close to a nativity play as I’m getting this year (the kids had theirs yesterday without an audience). In fact, I think the churches should be pretty perky all round with what’s going on: our largely agnostic nation is getting nice clear moral lessons in the run up to Christmas. Lying is for losers.

Winners meanwhile will be focusing on this week’s reads – which take us from global inequality to why you shouldn’t give up on getting that government PPE contract.

Have a great weekend.

Chief Executive
Resolution Foundation

Unequal world. The shiny new World Inequality Report 2022 is out and jam-packed with reminders about the big trends you might already know about, and novel insights you might not. Some key takeaways 1) It’s good to be a rich social democracy (Europe is the least unequal region, albeit we’re among the most unequal parts of it). 2) Countries with similar incomes can have very different inequality levels (e.g. Brazil’s and Malaysia are both middle income countries but inequality is much higher in the former). 3) The mega trend of the past four decades is rising within country inequality and falling global inequality. Even on the latter though, we’ve got miles to go, having just got back to the levels of early 20th century when the combined impact of imperialism and the industrial revolution made our globe the unequal place we’ve lived in ever since. Have a read of the exec summary at least.

Difficult decisions In the latest reminder not to take progress for granted, US Supreme Court judges are debating rolling back abortion rights. A timely new paper (£, older free version) in turn reminds us of the major financial impacts for women denied abortions. It compares outcomes for two groups of women seeking an abortion – those just under gestation limits who were granted the procedure and those just over who were denied it. Their prior financial outcomes were similar, but those denied an abortion were subsequently 81 per cent more likely to to experience a bankruptcy, face eviction or fail to pay their taxes. Negative financial effects persisted for the entire five-year observation period of this study. Deciding for other people whether they should or shouldn’t have children is very far from cost-free.

Persuasive elections. Winning elections involves persuading people who used to vote for another party to vote for you. I know you come to TOTCs for deep insights like this… but it’s amazing how often other explanations for election outcomes are trotted out, such as whether a particular sub-set of the population (usually the youth) did/didn’t turn out. People focusing on turnout has been particular prevalent following recent US elections where it mattered quite a lot. But social science is about more than a couple of data points, so read new research that examines over 100 elections across 18 different countries for a fuller picture. Voters choosing different parties in this election than they did in the last explains three times more of the change in vote shares between elections than turnout changes. In fact, in 96 per cent of elections, party switching is a bigger driver of shifts in vote shares than turnout or demographic change.

Protective procurement. Firms want government contracts (especially if there’s some overpriced PPE involved). And no wonder given the conclusion of an interesting new study examining auctions for construction projects in Italy. It turns out winning public contracts is the corporate equivalent of getting a Covid vaccination: firms that do so are 70 per cent more likely to still exist in three years’ time than those who are the runners up for the contracts. Why? Not because they get more productive, but because they become more dependent on government contracts which protect them from competition in the private market. Now where’s that box of face masks again?

Working women. Great new work (summary) from our IFS friends provides new insights on gender inequality at work. While the gender pay gap has fallen from 54 per cent to 40 per cent over the past quarter of a century, that result is almost entirely driven by fast increases in women’s educational achievement (although the gap is down for lower-qualified women thanks to the minimum wage + low earning men working fewer hours). Controlling for qualifications progress, progress has been less stellar, with a fall of 3 percentage points. The fact that the gap remains high is largely down to what happens when kids turn up: mothers take time out of the labour force or trade down jobs-wise in exchange for flexibility in a way we don’t see with fathers. More equal parenting at home is the route to more equal pay at work.

Chart of the Week

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is the introduction of new public health restrictions. Nothing says festivities like a face mask. Of course it can be difficult to stick to the rules, particularly last year when for many that meant not seeing friends and family. As Chart of the Week shows (thanks to ONS survey data from last year), young people struggled most with following the rules last Christmas – not surprising perhaps, given they’re far less likely to be affected by the virus. Around one-in-five 16-29 year olds said they found following the rules difficult – twice the proportion of those aged 70+. But new detailed, forensic, totally serious Resolution Foundation analysis has found a group who have found it even harder to follow public health guidance than the youth. Our data nerds have pinned this tribe down to a single address in Westminster. Worryingly some inhabitants seem totally unclear whether a massive party happened in the very house they were actually living in – which maybe makes me more worried than the actual breaking of the rules does…