Research & Current Projects

Submitted Papers

Liquid Assets? The Short-Run Liabilities of Binge Drinking (joint with Marco Francesconi (Essex)) 

We estimate the effect of binge drinking on road accidents, accident and emergency (A&E) attendances, and arrests using a variety of unique English data and a two-sample instrumental variables estimation procedure. Drinking 10 or more units of alcohol in a single session increases road accidents by 14%, injury-related A&E attendances by 5%, and arrests by 52%. The marginal increase from 8 to 10 or more alcoholic units implies nearly 4,500 extra road accidents every year, 63,000 additional A&E attendances, and 110,000 additional arrests. The externality per mile driven by a binge drinker is about 6 pence and the punishment that internalizes this externality is equivalent to a fine of  £20,000 per drunk driving arrest.

Revise and resubmit at The Economic Journal

From High School to the High Chair: Education and Fertility Timing (joint with Sunicia Vujic (Antwerp))

We exploit an expansion of post-compulsory schooling that occurred from the late 1980s to the early 1990s to investigate the effect of education on the timing of fertility in England and Wales. We find no effect on the probability of having a child as a teenager but instead find that the variation in education led to delays in childbearing. The mechanisms driving these findings are not due to an incapacitation effect.

Revise and resubmit at The Economics of Education Review

A Computer-Based Incentivized Food Basket Choice Tool – Presentation and Evaluation (joint with Michele Belot (EUI) and Jonathan Spiteri (Malta))

We present and evaluate a new incentive-based tool to measure people's dietary intake. Respondents are asked to allocate a fixed monetary budget across a choice of around a hundred grocery items with the prospect of receiving these items with some probability delivered to their home by a real supermarket. We then evaluate the information derived from our incentivized tool, comparing it to two standard tools used to measure dietary intake, namely the food frequency questionnaire and a 24-hour dietary recall, which are both based on self-reports. We invited 255 low income participants to our laboratory and collected measures using these three alternative tools. We compare the calorie intake indicators derived from each tool with a number of biometric measures for each subject, namely weight, body-mass-index (BMI) and waist size, in order to assess their validity. The results show that only the calorie intake measure from our incentivized tool is positively and significantly related to each of these biometric indicators; by contrast, we find no significant correlations for either of the two measures based on self-reports. Further analysis suggests that our incentivized tool is particularly good at capturing dietary intake for people who are either overweight or obese.

Click here for a working paper 

Working Papers

Peer Effects in Free School Meals: Information or Stigma?

 This paper investigates peer effects in the take up of a welfare programme, free school meals, using the Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) which collects data on every child attending school in England. To explore the nature of the peer effect, I examine two potential channels: stigma, and information. To disentangle these channels I first exploit the fact that in a number of schools cashless catering systems have been implemented which remove the stigma associated with claiming the benefit; to investigate the impact of this innovation, telephone interviews were conducted with over 400 schools to ascertain whether and when such systems had been introduced. Secondly, I test whether information plays a role by comparing the peer effect for those who have claimed in previous years with those who have not. The results suggest the presence of stigma dampens the peer effect and information makes it larger. Information is found to be a more important part of the peer effect for those living in areas of greater deprivation and stigma is more important for those in the least deprived regions. The policy implication from this is in areas of greater deprivation information campaigns will have a greater marginal impact that those that attempt to remove visible stigma.

FOI as a Data Collection Tool for Economists (joint with Joanna Clifton-Sprigg (Bath) and Sunicia Vujic (Antwerp))

This paper sets out a method of generating a unique data set that has been underused by economists – a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The FOI Act came into force in 2005 in the UK and allows the public to make requests of publicly held data. We explain how they can be made and provide suggestions on how to make effective data driven requests, those most frequently made by economists. Finally, we document the determinants of one particular FOI request. We applied for crime data from all police forces in the UK and examine the determinants of that request. In general, we find that observable characteristics of the local area or the police force neither determine whether the request was fulfilled, nor the speed at which it was responded to.

The Formation and Malleability of Dietary Habits: A Field Experiment with Low Income Families (Michele Belot (EUI), Noemi Berlin (Paris-Nanterre), Jonathan James (Bath), and Valeria Skafida (Edinburgh)

We conduct a field experiment to evaluate the extent to which dietary habits are malleable early on in childhood and later in life. We implement two treatments one that targets what people eat, the other that targets the timing and frequency of food intake. 285 low income families with young children were recruited and assigned either to a control group or one of the two treatments, each of them lasting for 12 consecutive weeks. In one treatment, families received food groceries at home for free for 12 weeks and were asked to prepare five specific healthy meals per week. In the other treatment, families were simply asked to reduce snacking and eat at regular times. We collected a range of measures of food preferences, dietary intake, as well as BMI and biomarkers based on blood samples. We find evidence that children’s BMI distribution shifted significantly relative to the control group, i.e. they became relatively “thinner”. We also find some evidence that their preferences have been affected by both treatments. On the other hand, we find little evidence of effects on parents. We conclude that exposure to a healthy diet and regularity of food intake possibly play a role in shaping dietary habits, but influencing dietary choices later on in life remains a major challenge.

Click here for a working paper

Work in Progress


Limited Attention, Information Provision and Dietary Choices: Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment (Michele Belot (Edinburgh), Jonathan Spiteri (Edinburgh))

Smoking, Information and Education: Evidence from the 1962 report by the Royal College of Physicians

Does tailored health information change behaviours: Evidence from Nurse Visits, (with Sonia Bhalotra (ISER, Essex), Adeline Delavande (ISER, Essex), Paul Fisher (ISER, Essex))

Silent and undiagnosed.  New evidence on the income gradient in hypertension, (with Sonia Bhalotra (ISER, Essex), Adeline Delavande (ISER, Essex), Paul Fisher (ISER, Essex))