What attracted you to IFS in the first place?
Put simply, I was very keen to apply economics to important real-life public policy problems and IFS offered this opportunity.
Which projects are you working on at the moment?
I am involved in several projects. One is looking at the impact of the state pension age. The age at which women in the UK can first receive a state pension has been increasing since April 2010. We started by looking at the extent to which this change has led to women – and their husbands – being more likely to be in paid work and less likely to have retired. We are now going on to look at a wider set of outcomes: does it lead to a change in the amount of time spent caring, what is the impact on net incomes, and does it have an impact on measures of physical and mental health?
We are also about to start a project looking at the impact of automatic enrolment on membership of, and contributions to, workplace pensions. In addition to measuring the extent to which defaulting employees into workplace schemes boosts overall membership we will also look to see whether some end up contributing less than they otherwise would have done. We will also examine whether groups not automatically enrolled – for example because their income is too low or because they are younger or older than the target group – are affected by the policy.
I have also been involved in a series of projects looking at the impact of pension systems on different outcomes across different countries. The latest phase of this work is focusing on the increases in employment rates of older men that has been seen across many countries since the mid-1990s and trying to assess how much of this increase can be attributed to policy reforms and how much is due to other factors. In addition to learning about the pension arrangements, and labour market outcomes, in different countries, this project has also involved annual conferences in some very nice locations across Europe!
What kind of things do you do during a typical day at work?
Like other IFS researchers I spend some time conducting analysis of microdata and summarising the findings in both written publications and oral presentations. When 'external' events happen – such as either the release of new figures on Government borrowing or new policy statements by the Government or main opposition parties – I also often spend time thinking through the implications and disseminating these to journalists, either on the phone or in an interview for radio or TV broadcast. Sometimes colleagues and I meet with ministers, their advisers, senior civil servants or other interested groups to discuss policy questions.
As Deputy Director of the Institute, I also meet regularly with other senior staff to discuss the Institute’s finances and strategy.
What do you particularly enjoy about your job?
I particularly enjoy the mix of work at IFS – for example, working both on papers that will (hopefully) published in peer-reviewed academic journals alongside reports aimed at the policy-making community. I also enjoy having a balance of longer-term projects (some of which can run for years) and shorter-term projects (some of which can run for only a month or two).
How has your career progressed, so far, at IFS?
I joined IFS in September 1996, having just completed an undergraduate degree at the LSE, and while working for IFS I studied part-time for an MSc at Birkbeck College. My research at IFS was initially in the area of local government but I soon moved on to focus on UK policy on pensions and saving policy and the public finances. In 2004 I was also appointed Deputy Director, which means I am involved in managerial decisions and questions about the Institute's strategic direction.
What have you learned from working here?
Lots! And despite having been here for quite a while I continue to learn more.
How would you describe the working environment?
There are many good things about the working environment at IFS, but for me the best is that everyone is very committed to, and very enthused by, their research and to working collaboratively to achieve the best we can.