Head of new economics programme makes strong statement on living standards

18 March 2014

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“Stagnation of living standards for low and middle income Britain is neither fair nor sustainable”, argues head of new economics programme

Oxford and the Resolution Foundation to investigate the fundamental causes of the stagnation in living standards and high economic inequality

The Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School (INET Oxford) and Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention have teamed up with the London-based think tank the Resolution Foundation to launch a new programme to investigate the fundamental causes of why incomes have stagnated or declined for low and middle income households in the UK, why economic inequality has risen in many advanced economies, and what policymakers might do to raise living standards, particularly for the middle and below.

Oxford announced today that Professor Brian Nolan will join the University in September as a Professor of Social Policy and Director of the new Employment, Equity and Growth Programme at INET Oxford; he will also become a Senior Research Fellow at Nuffield College. Prof. Nolan is an economist and one of the world’s leading experts on economic inequality. He is currently research co-ordinator of the GINI project, funded by the European Commission, focusing on the economic, social and political impacts of growing inequality, and he joins from University College Dublin, where he is the Principal of the College of Human Sciences.

Commenting on the new programme, Professor Nolan said: “The Great 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 not sustainable in the long term. Our research will aim to deepen our understanding into why this is happening and we will make recommendations for policy and institutional change designed to lead to a better, fairer growth model.”

Data recently published by Prof. Nolan’s future INET Oxford colleague Prof. Sir Tony Atkinson shows why this topic is so critical. The share of income of the top 1% of earners in Britain and the US has reached highs not seen since before the Second World War (see http://www.chartbookofeconomicinequality.com).

INET Oxford was established in 2012 by the University’s interdisciplinary Oxford Martin School and the New York based Institute for New Economic Thinking to provide leading-edge insights into major economic challenges. INET Oxford has over 80 researchers working on issues ranging from financial system stability, to economic growth, inequality, and environmental sustainability. Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention has led research on critical social issues for the past century and is home to a multidisciplinary community of scholars working on basic and applied research.

The Employment, Equity and Growth Programme is being developed jointly with the Resolution Foundation, which is a non-profit research organisation dedicated to improving the living standards of the 15 million people in Britain living on low and middle incomes.