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 which rose to 117.7 in 1910 (Broadberry 2006) demonstrating the ability of foreign nations to overtake Britain on this measure. [...]

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. [...]

International Trade and Economic Growth

Does international trade increase economic growth? In this context, what are the trade policies that have been followed by developing countries?

Standard textbook economic theory tells us that international trade benefits both parties in the trade, based on the gains from comparative advantage as laid out by David Ricardo. However, recent research into New Trade Theory suggests that trade may not always be beneficial, and there are examples when it could inhibit growth. This essay will examine when this could be the case and then relate this to the example of developing countries.

The Ricardian story goes that countries have comparative advantages in producing certain goods. [...]

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% in 1932 (Benjamin and Kochin). [...]

Europe 2020

Within the overall Europe 2020 strategy, there will be difficult tensions to resolve between social and economic aims, as well as between qualitative progress and quantitative targets.

The impact of Europe 2020 on employment and the labour market will be pivotal, because it is the policy domain that straddles the boundary between the EU as an economic union and its wider social ambitions. Discuss.

The 2020 strategy is designed to promote “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” with 7 key targets to; increase total investment in R+D to 3% of GDP; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels; increase the share of renewable energy to 20%; and move towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency; reduce school drop-out rates to less than 10% and increase the share of the population having completed tertiary education to at least 40%; lift 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion; and raise the employment rate to 75% amongst 20-64 year olds. [...]

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. [...]

The Lewis Model

Describe carefully the Lewis dualistic labour surplus model. Does the Lewis model describe accurately the process of economic development in poor countries?

The Model

The Lewis model proposes a dualistic economy consisting of a formal, industrial and urban sector, and an informal, agricultural and rural sector. The formal sector is characterised as capital intensive and being run by profit-maximising capitalists who hire labour until the wage rate equals the marginal product of labour. This is because it makes economic sense for a firm to continue to hire labour until the costs (wage) equal the benefits (the marginal product of the additional unit of labour). [...]

Minimum Wages

Why have statutory minimum wages become more prominent in recent decades? Why have they generally had little adverse effect on employment?

Prior to the introduction of the national minimum wage (NMW) in 1999 there had been no statutory wage floors since the abolishment of the Wages Councils in 1993 by the Conservative government. Growing wage inequality in both the D50:D10 and D90:D50 measure (which looks at the differing wage rates in the respective percentiles) was one of the leading reasons in the demand for some form of minimum wage to counter this growing inequality. Metcalf finds that the NMW reduced the D50:D10 ratio by 9 points if we include the effects of immigration. [...]

Life at Cambridge Part II

This is a long overdue follow on from my previous post Life at Cambridge, and details my experience of the Cambridge Economics Tripos for 1st year Lent and Easter terms.
The Course

Lent

Microeconomics

This term we began by looking at Game Theory, where we cover the basics such as Nash Equilibrium, before moving on to more sophisticated games, looking at 3×3 matrices as well as 2×2. Simultaneous games are considered, along with Cournot and Bertrand games and models of business strategy and the notion of game theory is applied to matters such as externalities and public goods. There are also references to evaluation, such as how game theory isn’t the best model of real-life situations; for example in a finite game, theory tells us that if it pays to cheat in the last round (i.e. [...]