Friday, January 20, 2017

Research Fellow Position at QUB

Applications are sought for a research fellow to work on a project on the determinants and consequences of fertility (comparing low and middle income countries with those in a historical context - early 20th century Ireland).

Applicants are expected to hold or be about to obtain a PhD in economics, demography, or a related discipline. Candidates with experience in development economics, economic history, and/or demography are especially welcome.

The successful candidate will be based at Queen’s Management School, working with the Centre for Health Research at the Management School (CHaRMS) and the Centre for Economic History (QUECH). 

This is a 12 month position, with the deadline for applications Monday 6th February. 

Examples of the type of research the position will involve include:

Delaney, L., McGovern, M.E., Smith, J.P., 2011. From Angela’s Ashes to the Celtic Tiger: Early Life Conditions and Adult Health in Ireland. Journal of Health Economics 30, 1–10.

Fernihough, A., McGovern, M.E., 2014. Do Fertility Transitions Influence Infant Mortality Declines? Evidence from Early Modern Germany. Journal of Population Economics 27, 1145–1163.

Informal questions can be directed to, further details of the position and how to apply are available here:

Behavioural Science in Law & Policy: Evidence, Ethics, & Expertise Workshop Summary

Thanks to Kathryn MacKay for preparing this excellent summary of our recent workshop on the ethics and evidence of behavioural science in public policy. The workshop was organised by myself and Muireann Quigley from Newcastle Law School and heard talks for a range of speakers from psychology, law, economics, sociology, and public policy perspectives. The ethical and legal aspects of behavioral science applications in policy is one of three key themes of our emerging research group in Dublin and we will be organising several events on these topics over the next three years. 
Behavioural economics, and behavioural science more generally, has become an increasingly salient aspect of modern policy debates. Despite the current enthusiasm amongst governments and policy-makers for behavioural approaches, there are potential problems with the use of the behavioural sciences to formulate public policy, many of which remain underexplored. This workshop brought together papers from a range of different disciplinary, regulatory, and practical perspectives to examine the potential benefits and pitfalls of behavioural science as applied to policy. The workshop was focused around three core themes: Evidence, Ethics, and Expertise. Speakers presented on the debates surrounding the existence of empirical evidence for people's irrationality, including evidence for biases and an unwarranted reliance on heuristics, which is often used as the justification for 'nudge' techniques. Presenters also questioned the normative foundation for the use of these techniques, in law and in ethics. Finally, presenters discussed the policy-making process in terms of what is counted as evidence and who is granted the authority of expertise to make behavioural policy decisions, as well as the complexity of doing truly interdisciplinary work in academia and in policy. This report provides a summary of the presentations in each session, as well as some of the themes that emerged from discussions on the individual sessions and the workshop as a whole. While presenters approached the topic of behavioural insights in policy development from different angles, the broad consensus at the end of the day was that these should be approached and implemented with caution. Presenters agreed that much more research on behaviourally-informed policy's effectiveness over time and impact on people's welfare is needed. Presenters also largely agreed that the application of behavioural insights was not a straight-forward exercise, and tended to raise very important ethical, legal, and empirical questions. There was further consensus that behavioural sciences will continue to evolve and to inform policy in advanced democracies, and that as the field moves forward other disciplines will be required to test, verify, critique, and surveil the translation of behavioural insights into policy.

New Paper on Day Reconstruction and Policy Trials

See below for our recently published paper utilising day reconstruction methods in the context of a randomised policy intervention in Dublin. Using such methods to examine the well-being effect of public policies is a promising area and we are currently working on a set of studies widening the methodology to also examine choices and mechanisms of behavioural change.

Can Early Intervention Improve Maternal Well-Being? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial

Orla Doyle ,
Liam Delaney,
Christine O’Farrelly,
Nick Fitzpatrick,
Michael Daly

Published: January 17, 2017



This study estimates the effect of a targeted early childhood intervention program on global and experienced measures of maternal well-being utilizing a randomized controlled trial design. The primary aim of the intervention is to improve children’s school readiness skills by working directly with parents to improve their knowledge of child development and parenting behavior. One potential externality of the program is well-being benefits for parents given its direct focus on improving parental coping, self-efficacy, and problem solving skills, as well as generating an indirect effect on parental well-being by targeting child developmental problems.


Participants from a socio-economically disadvantaged community are randomly assigned during pregnancy to an intensive 5-year home visiting parenting program or a control group. We estimate and compare treatment effects on multiple measures of global and experienced well-being using permutation testing to account for small sample size and a stepdown procedure to account for multiple testing.


The intervention has no impact on global well-being as measured by life satisfaction and parenting stress or experienced negative affect using episodic reports derived from the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM). Treatment effects are observed on measures of experienced positive affect derived from the DRM and a measure of mood yesterday.


The limited treatment effects suggest that early intervention programs may produce some improvements in experienced positive well-being, but no effects on negative aspects of well-being. Different findings across measures may result as experienced measures of well-being avoid the cognitive biases that impinge upon global assessments.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network Meetings

The 6th Irish Behavioural Science and Policy Network meet-up will take place on Feb. 9th from 6.00 to 7.30pm (location will be confirmed closer to the date). This meet-up will focus on the behavioural economics and the ethics of influence, and the speakers will be confirmed shortly. Sign-up here to register.

In 2017, we have five meet-ups scheduled, as well as the annual Irish economics and psychology workshop on December 1st:

9th February: Behavioural Economics and the Ethics of Influence (sign-up here)
30th March: Behavioural Science and Social Justice (sign-up here)
18th May: Field, Lab, and Natural Experiments in Public Policy (sign-up here)
7th September: Behavioural Economics and Communications in Policy and Business (sign-up here)
19th October: Behavioural Economics and the Future of Regulation (sign-up here)
1st December: 10th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference (sign-up here)

Sanjit Dhami: The Foundations of Behavioural Economic Analysis

See below a talk by Prof Sanjit Dhami on his recently released textbook "The Foundations of Behavioural Economic Analysis". This 1800 page tome is an extraordinary introduction to the key technical concepts of the field and will be a key component of many graduate programmes in the next few years.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

UCD MSc in Behavioural Economics

The new UCD MSc in Behavioural Economics is now available for inquiries and applications at the following link. I will be directing the programme and there will be an extensive programme of research, seminars, public talks, and related activity. I am happy to speak to prospective applicants over email or arrange a visit.
MSc Behavioural Economics 
UCD School of Economics is Ireland’s leading economics department. Our staff are experts with international reputations in a wide range of topics such as macroeconomics, econometrics, applied microeconomics, behavioural economics, health economics, international trade and economic history. School members play a significant role in debating economic policy issues and in contributing to the formulation of economic policy.  This is the only MSc in this area in Ireland and it is one of the few worldwide with a strong policy and regulatory focus. 
The MSc in Behavioural Economics  is an exciting new course devoted to providing an in-depth training in the area of behavioural economics. Students will take a range of rigorous economic modules but will specialise in understanding a range of new models that incorporate the latest evidence on human decision making. As well as being trained in the core concepts and theories of behavioural economics, students will also learn about the range of empirical methods used to test ideas in this area in lab and field settings. The MSc will also cover the ethical, legal, and regulatory context for the ideas of behavioural economics. Thus, the students will be equipped to apply these ideas in a wide range of academic, business, and policy settings. 
This programme features small group teaching from leading economists and a supportive environment.  Masters students are an integral part of our School community, attending research seminars and receiving a wide range of supports to help them prepare for their research thesis. 
Course content & structure
This programme comprises 90 Credits of which 70 are taught and 20 are taken by dissertation.
In your first term, you will undertake a two-week preliminary course in mathematics and statistics.  You will also take the following modules:
•    Microeconomics
•    Econometrics
•    Behavioural Economics
•    Topics in Psychological Science
•    Research Skills
In your second term, you will take the following two core modules.
•    Behavioural Economics: Policy Applications
•    Experiments in Economics 
You will also take two other modules. The following is an indicative list of modules that may be available:
•    Advanced Microeconomics
•    Advanced Econometrics
•    Health and Welfare Economics
•    Economics of Competition Policy
•    Energy Economics and Policy 
In summer term, you will do a supervised research thesis on a topic related to behavioural economics. 
Behavioural Economics is now a key area of academic study and is having substantial influence on business, policy, and regulation. This MSc will equip students both with a core academic understanding of the key concepts and with a strong sense of how to apply these ideas to a wide range of settings.” - Prof Liam Delaney, Programme Director

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

IAREP Twitter Account

The International Association for Research in Economics Psychology (IAREP) has set up a new Twitter account - @iarep1982. IAREP has been a key body in integrating economics and psychology since 1982 and organises a range of activities,  including the annual IAREP conference. Do follow the account if you are on twitter and spread the word.