Andrew McKendrick

Published on 21 September 2022

Research Economist

What first attracted you to the IFS?

I knew from fairly early in my academic studies that I wanted to work at IFS. The reputation the IFS has and the quality of the work that is produced here, combined with the reach and impact of that work, made it seem a very appealing place to work. The fact that the IFS also seek to communicate complex economics to the widest possible audience and in doing so hold policy makers to account also attracted me.   

Which projects are you working on at the moment?

I have two main projects, currently. The first is examining the relationship between child mental health and the economic situation of their parents during the pandemic. The second is looking at whether changes in calorie consumption that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic have been persistent using a dataset on household purchases. Soon I will be part of a project evaluating the impact of the Healthy Start voucher scheme on nutrition and educational attainment. I’ve been struck by how quickly I’ve been involved in interesting and important projects.

What kind of things do you do during a typical day at work?

Every project involves getting to grips with data, particularly early on in the timeline of a piece of work. That means using statistical software such as Stata. As well as this it’s important to remain on top of the relevant literature. As things progress, I spend more time writing presentation slides and drafts of the report or paper that will be the ultimate output of the project. Throughout I spend time discussing the work with colleagues.

What do you particularly enjoy about the job?

There’s an awful lot to like. From day one I’ve felt like I’ve been learning so much and improving my skills. The opportunity to engage with colleagues and external academics on such a wide range of important topics is great. I also enjoy how much of an input I can have in terms of the direction of the projects I’m working on. All ideas and suggestions are taken seriously. I also like the frequency with which internal seminars and workshops are held – it’s good to be able to see what others are working on. The research breakfasts on Thursdays are a great example of this – a relatively informal discussion of a research idea somebody has, without slides, and with pastries and fruit accompanying.

How has your career progressed so far?

I’m fairly new to IFS, having joined in June 2022. It’s been striking how much I’ve learnt in the time I’ve been here and how much of a chance I’ve been given to engage in activities. Already I will be presenting the work we have produced on child mental health project, both internally and externally. I meet my line manager every other week to chat about how things are going and discuss what I would like to focus on and achieve going forward.

What have you learned from working here?

I’ve learnt different research methods already, including sequence analysis, and got to grips with quasi-experimental methods that I hadn’t worked with before outside of my degree modules. I already feel that my ability to think critically about economic ideas is improving along with my presentation skills as a result of regular progress meetings with my co-authors.  

How would you describe the working environment?

The working environment is very relaxed. Everyone is friendly and happy to chat. The quality of your work has to be good, but you aren’t being monitored constantly – you’re trusted to get on with it. Unlike other places I have worked there is a recognition that your whole work day can’t just be meetings; it’s important to have time to be able to focus on your projects. It’s okay to say no to requests that you don’t have time to do well, though I haven’t found myself doing that yet, and colleagues are flexible on meeting times to discuss progress.