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ESRC Festival of Social Science 2020

The ESRC Festival of Social Science 2020 will run from 9-13 November 2020, with online events organised by institutions across the UK.

As part of the festival, we are holding a series of events throughout the week. All of these events will be free to watch on the IFS website. A listing of our events is below, with links to more information and to register where available:

Monday 9th November

The coronavirus recession: comparisons and lessons from the past

Online | 11:00 - 12:00 (joint event with NIESR)

Senior researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research will join together to look at how Covid-19 has impacted the public finances. At this event, they will look at what we can learn from comparisons with the fallout from the financial crisis, as well as how uncertainty around the economy has affected public spending in the past.


COVID-19 and councils: impacts, responses and recovery

Online | 16:00 - 17:15

The event brings together researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and leading experts from local government to examine how the COVID-19 crisis has been affecting local finances and economies, how councils have been responding, and key issues for the next few years as we seek to recover and ‘build back better’. IFS Associate Director David Phillips will present the IFS’s latest research on the topic, which will be followed by a panel of experts, including Nicola Morton, head of finance for LGA, and councillor Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council and chair of the LGA’s Resource’s Board. Finally, there will be time for Q&A.


Tuesday 10th November

The future of public service spending

Online | 14:00 - 15:00

A Spending Review is a difficult balancing act at the best of times, forcing Chancellors to make difficult choices between competing government departments and services, and trade off higher spending against the tax or borrowing needed to pay for it. This year's Spending Review is likely to be the most difficult to date. It comes after a decade of austerity, amidst the most severe economic downturn in centuries, with the nature of the UK's future relationship with the EU still uncertain, and the long-term implications of Covid-19 for our economy and public services not yet known.


Wednesday 11th November

Creating equal opportunities for all: intergenerational mobility in England

Online | 14:00 - 15:00

A socially mobile country provides equal opportunities for everyone, across big cities and small towns, and regardless of whether your parents are rich or poor. This event will look at the state of mobility across England and explore policy options for any government committed to a levelling up agenda. It will discuss the findings of recent IFS research which uses linked data on over half a million children to show how earnings outcomes of children from different backgrounds vary across the country, and will explore the role of education and the labour market in creating opportunities for all.


Thursday 12th November

What is a degree worth? Estimating the returns to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees

Online | 10:00 - 11:00

The share of people staying on in education beyond the age of 18 has grown substantially in the UK since the 1980s. Yet until now, evidence on the effect of these qualifications on subsequent earnings has been limited. The newly available Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) dataset has changed that, allowing us to produce new evidence on the returns to various different post-18 qualifications. This event will present key findings from three pieces of research published in 2020 by the IFS (and written in collaboration with various external colleagues), including the lifetime returns to undergraduate degrees, the returns to postgraduate degrees, and the returns to alternative post-18 qualifications. We will discuss the implications for policy, highlight areas where future research is needed and have a wider discussion with the audience about the findings.


The impact of covid-19 on the early years childcare market in England

Online | 14:00 - 15:30 (Organised by University of Birmingham, featuring IFS speakers)

Formal childcare providers in the private and voluntary sectors – such as nurseries and childminders – are vital for many parents to work. They are also the major route through which the government’s free early education entitlements are delivered. Covid-19 has the potential to devastate the financial viability of such childcare providers, with potential knock-on consequences for parents’ – especially mothers’ – ability to work, and perhaps also the government’s ability to deliver its free early education entitlements. This event will discuss the challenges facing childcare providers and present new research on the topic.

Speakers include Dr Claire Crawford, IFS Research Fellow and Reader in Economics at the University of Birmingham, and an expert panel.


Generation COVID

Online | 17:00 - 18:00 (Joint event with Discover Economics and the Economics Observatory)

Discover Economics, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Economics Observatory present Generation-COVID, a webinar for 15-17 year olds exploring what Covid-19 means for the future of the economy. What will be the impact of disruption to schools? Will the way we work change forever?


Friday 13th November

Public Economics Lectures

Each year early career economists at IFS deliver a day of public economics talks, aimed at A-level and undergraduate students who have an interest in economics or might want to pursue a career in public policy research. As part of this year’s Festival of Social Science, we will be live streaming a selection of lectures from the series.

These webinars are primarily aimed at final year undergraduates studying economics, but should be useful to anyone interested in the subject. There will be time allowed for Q&A on each topic.

9:00 - 9:50: Income inequality: how and why has it changed, and should governments care?

10:00 - 10:50: The economics of health inequalities

11:00 - 11:50: Pensions and savings

14:00 - 14:50: Corporation taxes

15:00 - 15:50: How can we design taxes to discourage harmful behaviour?