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Agnes Norris Keiller

Research economist, Income, Work and Welfare programme

What first attracted you to IFS?

During my time as a student I experienced working in a range of organisations and this helped me realise that research work was really where my interests lay. After that it was the reputation of the IFS that was the main draw. IFS research achieves such good coverage in the media, it struck me as a great place to undertake rigorous economic research that gets noticed beyond the confines of academia.

 

Which projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment that all broadly relate to income inequality and welfare policy. The first is a report that documents trends in the cost of renting over time and examines how this relates to changes in the quality of rented housing. This is more of a ‘policy’ project, where the final output will be an accessible research report. In addition to this I’m working on two ‘academic’ projects that aim to get a paper published in an academic journal. One seeks to understand the labour market impacts of trade and the other examines how widening earnings inequality and changes in male labour supply relate to increased pressures on welfare programmes. I’m working with senior academics in both of these projects, which is a great learning experience.

 

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

This really depends on the stage of the projects I’m working on. When a project first gets going I typically spend a substantial amount of time analysing data (using statistical software) to work out the specific empirical analysis we can undertake and finalise the main research questions. You’re always working as part of a research team so this is an iterative process that involves producing results, discussing these with colleagues and doing further analysis based on those discussions. Academic projects also involve reading any related literature so you can see how your work relates to what’s already been done. The next stage of work involves writing up the main results, redrafting based on comments from other people working on the project and senior colleagues, and preparing any additional publication material such as press releases and presentations. Alongside project work I might also have more short-term tasks like writing a magazine article or policy observation. Overall I really enjoy the balance between statistical analysis and writing. 

 

What do you particularly enjoy about the job?

There are lots of different aspects I enjoy. I particularly appreciate being able to discuss results with such experienced and enthusiastic colleagues and how I feel encouraged to think about future research ideas. I’m also involved in the 24-hour IFS responses to major fiscal events which are always great fun. 

 

How has your career progressed so far at IFS?

I’ve worked at IFS for almost 2 years now and am really pleased at how things have progressed. I’ve been involved in high-profile analysis during the Budget and General Election, and had my first experience presenting to a press conference and being interviewed on radio. Having worked on a fairly broad range of topics, I’ve found labour market analysis particularly interesting and I’m beginning to develop a specialism in this area. 

 

What have you learned from working here?

I feel like I’ve improved a wide range of skills through working at IFS. On a practical level my coding has become more efficient and I’m now better at writing quickly, concisely and in an engaging manner. More broadly, I now feel more able to identify interesting research questions in terms of their potential academic contribution and relation to current policy. I’ve also learnt a great deal about a whole range of policy areas, even those I haven’t worked on directly, which is a great help in seeing through the political spin that’s often involved in public debates!

 

How would you describe the working environment?

The office has a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The thing I like most is that IFS feels like a very non-hierarchical organisation: if you have a good idea or suggestion it will be listened to no matter how junior you are. There’s also a fun social side including post-work drinks on Friday and sports teams.