What is Social Ontology and why should Economists care?

Literally, social ontology is the study of social nature and it concerns itself with “how existents exist”1. It is the study of the social realm which includes the “domain of all phenomena, existents, properties”2 whose existence depends upon humans and their interactions. To paraphrase Little “almost all human action is social: socially oriented, socially embedded or socially constructed”6.  So how can it be useful for illuminating the study of economics? If economics is the study of people, and how they interact to form markets, bargain with each other, and more generally interact economically, then we need to examine an economist’s worldview on how these interactions are governed. [...]

Why has wage inequality risen?

Wage inequality has increased in many economies in recent decades. Discuss the three leading hypotheses regarding the causes of this increase. What does the empirical evidence tell us about the quantitative importance of each of these factors?

The US economy has almost double since the 1970s, and labour productivity has risen over this period. Yet real wages for the median worker hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, and below-median male wages have fallen; showing that the increasing size of the economy hasn’t been fairly distributed.

The rise in inequality between high skilled and low skilled workers is particularly pronounced, with Autor finding that households which are composed of university education individuals earned $30,298 more than non-skilled workers in 1979, but this rose to $58,249 by 2012, an increase of 92%. [...]

Did small scale firms inhibit Victorian Growth?

Britain’s manufacturing firms have been accused of remaining family-run and small scale in the period 1850-1914, so ignoring the benefits of the large corporation evident in the USA. Discuss whether this represents a form of entrepreneurial failure by the owners of British firms.

Chandler identifies that corporation’s in America are vertically and horizontally integrated, invested in new technology and produced the latest industrial wares such as electricals, chemicals and automobiles. Britain was characterised by an “atomistic organisation of production”, according to Elbaum and Lazonick, with many small firms that were run by families. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1880s less than 10% of the manufacturing sector was accounted for by the largest 100 firms, the US figure was 22% (Hannah 1983). [...]

Was there a Victorian Failure in Manufacturing?

Comparisons of Britain’s labour productivity in manufacturing with that of other industrialised countries, such as the USA and Germany, from 1850-1914 suggest no dramatic decline in this sector during the period. However, labour productivity performance at the whole economy level was poor in comparison to other countries. (a) How can this be explained (b) Does it suggest a failure occurring in the UK economy?

Over the period 1850-1914 there was a decline in Britain’s overall labour productivity comparative to its competitors – against the US Britain was more productive in 1870 but was overtaken during the 1890s – in 1870 US/UK labour productivity in the aggregate economy was 89.8 [...]

Standards of Living during the Industrial Revolution

The debate about living standards in the Industrial Revolution has recently focused on anthropometric measures, such as height and mortality, and linked these to the ability to work more intensively. Describe how these factors may be related. Discuss what the anthropometric evidence reveals about living standards in this period.

Anthropometric measures add a new light on the debate and show whether people were healthier as a result of the industrial revolution. If they were then they would have been able to work more intensively because they would need fewer days off work due to fatigue or illness. Schultz believes that there is a positive relationship between height and productivity because height is a measure of nutritional status and better fed, healthier people could work harder. [...]

What is economic development?

‘What is economic development and how would you measure it? Does an increase in per capita national income always constitute an increase in the standard of living?’

Economic development is hard to define, but is an improvement in the living conditions of the population as a whole. Whilst closely linked with economic growth – high growth could result in high development – they are not the same thing and economic growth, as we shall discover, does not necessarily equate to economic development. It can be measured in a variety of different ways and Streeten believes it is necessary for its own sake, to improve the condition of people, because it results in higher productivity and lower fertility (which is generally seen as a good thing), can lead to a better environment and a healthier civil society, democracy and social stability. [...]

Unemployment during the Inter-War period

The 1919-20 reduction in working hours accompanied by the maintenance of the weekly wage has been argued to underlie the rapid rise in unemployment in Britain in the early 1920s and some of the persistence of unemployment through to 1939. To what extent can these aspects of interwar unemployment be attributed to this supply-side change?

Unemployment was persistently high during the inter-war years at 10.9% (Feinstein) compared to an average of 5% pre-WWI. Even within the inter-war period there were large differences in this rate – jumping from 17% in 1921 to 9.7% in 1927 and reaching a peak of 22.1% [...]

A letter to my children

In Cambridge we have the weird tradition of a parenting system, where 2nd years can get college children: it’s basically a buddy system to help freshers integrate into Cambridge life. Below is info for Girton Economists, but most should apply for Cambridge Economists.

Dear Kids,

Hi, my name is Rhys and I’m your college father. Your college mother is ***, who reads English and should be shortly in touch to fill in any gaps I miss. We are your college parents, every Cambridge student is assigned these when they start and it’s our job to give you information and act as a student pastoral outlet to help you settle in. [...]

Technological Revolution

Explain the debate between Allen and Mokyr on the role of institutions and resources in explaining the Industrial Revolution in Britain

Mokyr believed that the Industrial Revolution was greatly aided by the technological changes which came about through an increase in scientific knowledge from what he termed the Industrial Enlightenment. This enlightenment came about through increased scientific knowledge, skilled craftsmen and experimentation. Scientific knowledge improved through a number of factors; firstly overall education improved as higher real wages meant that it made more sense for couples to have fewer children but to invest more in their education. This was further enhanced by increased urbanisation which increased the incentive to learn as urban citizens would need to read, write and count to conduct business and trade. [...]