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“Stagnation of living standards for the ‘squeezed middle’ is neither fair nor sustainable”, argues head of new economics programme at the University of Oxford



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Professor Brian Nolan to head up team looking at Economics, Equity and Growth

With recent news that bankers’ bonuses have increased 29% worldwide in the past year, the University of Oxford has announced a new drive to investigate why incomes and living standards of those in the middle classes and below has stagnated.

The Oxford Martin School’s Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET Oxford) has teamed up with The Resolution Foundation and Oxford University’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention to appoint Professor Brain Nolan to head up a research group looking at the links between growth, employment, living standards and working life prospects for the Middle and Below (M&B) group. 

Joining the programme as Director, Professor Nolan said: “The recession has put the spotlight on the so-called ‘squeezed middle’ but the reality is that the ‘squeeze’ started long before. The growth models of developed economies have driven a gap in living standards and wealth that is simply not sustainable in the long term. Based on research into the links between GDP growth and the evolution of the distribution of household income and welfare, we will make recommendations for policy and institutional change designed to lead to a better, fairer growth model. ”

Professor Nolan is well-qualified to take on the challenge. With a background in economics, public and social policy appointments, he is currently research co-ordinator of the GINI project, funded by the EU, focusing on the economic, social and political impacts of growing inequalities. He joins from University College Dublin, where he was Principal of the College of Human Sciences.

Professor Nolan explains the benefits of working as part of INET Oxford and with the Social Policy Department: “INET Oxford has specialists in ‘new economics’ tools such as network theory, complex systems theory, and agent-based modelling. Combined with the social policy expertise on offer, we will be able create a rigorous economic foundation for policy and institutional changes that have the potential to transform the long term prospects of people who are the backbone of our economies.”

Professor Eric Beinhocker, Director of INET Oxford, is equally ambitious. In welcoming Professor Nolan’s appointment he said: “While we would not rule out proposals for immediate policy changes, our aim is to set the stage for debating what kind of economy we want to see in 20 years’ time.”


Notes to Editors

The Economics, Equity and Growth Programme is part of INET Oxford at The Oxford Martin School. The programme is funded by The Resolution Foundation (other funders?) and Professor Nolan’s appointment is co-hosted by The Department for Social Policy and Intervention.

The programme identifies and assesses the economic theories, policies and institutional changes required for fairer, more inclusive growth, with a focus on creating sustainable jobs and reducing unemployment in a period of intensifying globalization and technology change.

This programme will seek to understand why our current growth models are failing and what may be required for better, fairer growth. It will look at the connected issues the equity of the economic process and the equity of the outcomes.

It will look at inequality from a more “bottom-up” perspective and how different processes can lead to different outcomes and find ways to increase the equity and fairness of those processes