Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Irish Well-Being Framework Update

I spoke at an event on 28th November organised by the Irish Taoiseach's office on the national well-being framework. I was involved as part of an expert group in establishing the framework. It is now part of the Irish policy framework and is constructed each year and presented as part of the Irish budget.

Details of the framework are available here and here. The Annex published alongside the annual Irish budget is available here

At the event Carrie Exton spoke about the international context of well-being frameworks. Details of the widely used OECD Better Life Index are available here

In my remarks I mentioned the late Alan Krueger as a key figure in articulating the role of well-being in the economic policy context. Two of his key works on this are here and here 

I also referenced the growing literature on the increase in anxiety among young adults as one potential avenue for further work on the background of the framework. Some key papers for that are here and here

It might have been a rush of blood to the head but I had a short rant about AI and job displacement. I have no idea how many jobs AI will displace or indeed create. The point I was raising was a more general one that job loss was for most of the 20th century one of the main causes of psychological distress and that has continued to be the case. So it is fundamental to understand this process in evaluating the welfare impacts of a disruptive technology and the regulatory environment around it. But the main point I tried to get across was the potential for structured well-being frameworks to be informative with regard to broader aspects of crisis response and population resilience (recent paper expanding that thought here). 

There was a lot of discussion about how the well-being framework interacts with other measures such as SDGs. I made the case that the well-being frameworks provide a novel space to talk through aspects of well-being both within and outside environmental sustainability contexts. Clearly the SDGS are broad enough to encapsulate many things a well-being framework will measure but the focus is broader. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Ethical Influence: Home Office Vans

 I have been listening to a podcast led by Alistair Campbell, former Director of Communications for Tony Blair, and Rory Stewart, a writer and former Conservative minister who became very prominent in a surprisingly close attempt to become Prime Minister after the resignation of Theresa May. The podcast has a sibling podcast called "Leading" where they interview various leadership figures. They recently interviewed Theresa May over the course of two episodes (both podcasts are easy to find on any podcasting site). The tone of the episodes tends to be relatively reflective and the interviewees are given space to put forward their perspectives on events and their role in them. 

It was interesting to hear May speak about a range of decisions and campaigns that she was a key figure on over the course of her career. One thing that I wrote about here at the time was the Home Office's campaigns to make Britain a "hostile environment" for illegal immigration. Below is one particularly stark example, where they drove vans with "In the UK illegally: Go Home or Face Arrest" around multi-ethnic neighborhoods in London. I wrote about it at time - I am little embarrassed at how polite the tone of my writing was but it is clear that I thought this was poorly thought-out and ethically problematic. 

It is interesting that over the course of the interview, it is the only action and policy that a former long-standing Home Secretary and Prime Minister fully accepts was a mistake. I have used it in lectures ever since as an example of why having some ethical breaks in the construction of influence campaigns of whatever sort is important. It also continues to stand as a good example of where political propaganda meets administrative influence. To the extent that behavioural science in particular becomes part of the institutional environment of public policy, a critical awareness of the potential damage of such policies is very important. 

Friday, September 01, 2023

LSE Events Autumn 2023

 As well as the wider world session I have spoken about here before, there is obviously a very active public events programme here. Details available here with most available either in person or online. There are 60+ events already from September to October, including several involving colleagues from our Department. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Epistemic injustice and mental health research: A pragmatic approach to working with lived experience expertise

A fascinating paper by Celestin Okoroji and colleagues Tanya Mackay, Dan Robotham, and Davino Beckford. Abstract below. I posted recently on the lecture by Sanjay Pandey on the centrality of subjective experience for public administration research. There are clearly many streams converging on the idea that public policy research needs to have a more direct engagement with those affected by the consequences of decisions arising from advice. I won't try to untangle all of the knots involved in bringing the various intellectual traditions together but it is obvious that there are many interesting intersections that will come together increasingly in the next few years.

“Epistemic injustice” refers to how people from marginalized groups are denied opportunities to create knowledge and derive meaning from their experiences. In the mental health field, epistemic injustice occurs in both research and service delivery systems and particularly impacts people from racialized communities. Lived experience involvement and leadership are often proposed as methods of combatting epistemic injustice, a tool for ensuring the views of people at the center of an issue are heard and can inform decision-making. However, this approach is not without challenges. In this paper, we draw on our work as intermediary organizations that center lived experience perspectives to challenge epistemic injustice. We highlight two problems we have identified in working in the mental health research field: “elite capture” and “epistemic exploitation”. We believe that these problems are barriers to the radical and structural change required for epistemic justice to occur. We propose a pragmatic approach to addressing these issues. Based on our work we suggest three considerations for researchers and our own organizations to consider when involving people with lived experience. These include reflecting on the purpose of creating knowledge, with a focus on impact. Embedding lived experience roles, with appropriate employment, support and remuneration, and acknowledging that it may be necessary to work alongside existing systems as a “critical friend” while developing new spaces and structures for alternative forms of knowledge. Finally, the mental health research system needs to change. We believe these three considerations will help us better move toward epistemic justice in mental health research.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Everyday Administrative Burden and Inequality

The print version of our paper "Everyday Administrative Burden and Inequality" (with Lucie Martin and Orla Doyle) is available now at Public Administration Review. Abstract below. I posted recently about a fascinating paper arguing that subjective experience will/should take greater precedence in public administration research. This is one methodological approach for advancing this. 

Administrative burdens create costly experiences for citizens, especially disadvantaged groups. Research to date focuses on how burdens affect outcomes in specific policy contexts, thus little is known about cumulative experiences of burdens in everyday life and their distribution in society. This is the first study to document everyday administrative experiences, accounting for time and well-being costs across 10 domains: tax, retirement, government benefits, bills, goods and services, savings, debt, health, child care, and adult care. Survey results from 2243 UK adults show that administrative tasks are a significant part of everyday life, with time and well-being costs that vary by domain. Benefits-related tasks are particularly costly. There is evidence of distributive effects. Those in poor health and financial insecurity are more likely to engage in salient tasks, such as benefits, but less likely to engage with longer-term tasks including savings and retirement. They experience higher well-being costs, especially during salient tasks.

The nature of the administrative tasks that we surveyed in the UK population are delineated below and the paper gives details of the percentage of people who engaged in these tasks over a day or month (some important design details are provided in the method section) and the amount of time they spent. We also elicited positive and negative emotions during these events using a modified day reconstruction survey. 

The associated well-being during each task is shown below, with the coefficients coming from within-person regression models.  The paper provides greater detail on how these well-being coefficients are distributed across age, health status, income, and financial well-being, with those in poor health and with lower financial well-being, in general, experiencing high levels of negative affect and lower levels of positive affect during admin tasks compared to other groups.  

There are other projects associated with the paper, including a forthcoming paper we have worked on examining the role of administrative burdens in decision-making, using choice experiments. Lucie is currently completing a separate paper on gender aspects of these well-being differences across tasks and is working with the Psychology of Administrative Burdens project to conduct versions of the survey internationally. In our Department at LSE, many colleagues are working on well-being in the context of public policy environments, including a number of projects specifically on the experience of time. Some other specific directions relevant to the current paper include the use of subjective ethnography to dive deeper into the experience of administrative tasks. As noted by Panday in the article I mentioned in the opening paragraph, moving from analysis of lived experience to more direct involvement of people with lived experience of these contexts is another area that many people here have been pursuing. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Accounting for the Widening Mortality Gap Between Adult Americans with and without a BA

Anne Case and Angus Deaton continue to unpick what is one of the industrialised world's most stark demographic trend - the growing disparity in health and mortality between university-educated and non-university educated Americans. 

We examine mortality differences between Americans with and without a four-year college degree over the period 1992 to 2021. From 1992 to 2010, both groups saw falling mortality, but with greater improvements for the more educated; from 2010 to 2019, mortality fell for those with a BA and rose for those without; from 2019 to 2021, mortality rose for both groups, but more rapidly for the less educated. In consequence, the mortality gap between the two groups rose in all three periods, unevenly until 2010, faster between 2010 to 2019, and explosively during the pandemic. The overall period saw dramatic changes in patterns of mortality, but gaps rose consistently, not only in all-cause mortality, but in each of thirteen broad classifications of cause of death. Gaps increased for causes of death whose rates have risen in the last thirty years, whose rates have fallen in the last thirty years, and whose rates fell and then rose. Gaps rose for causes where rates were originally higher for those without a BA, and where rates were originally lower for those without a BA. Although mechanisms and stories are different for each cause of death, the widening gap is seen throughout.