INET@Oxford Research

From April 2014 I will be working on a project on Economics, Equity and Employment. This new programme of research is concerned with the links between growth, employment, living standards and working life prospects for the middle and below group of the income and wealth distribution. It will seek to understand why our current growth models are failing and what may be required for better, fairer growth.

My part of the research programme will concentrate on the interactions between education, inequality and social mobility.

SKOPE Research

The following projects were funded by SKOPE's third ESRC research programme (2008-2013).

Polarisation and mobility in the UK

This project looks at the implications of a polarising labour market for occupational and wage mobility and skills policy. The main research questions of this project are:

  • What does the polarisation hypothesis (Goos and Manning, 2007) mean for wage distributions and earnings inequality?
  • What happens to the mobility of workers in routine occupations as these jobs have declined?
  • Does a declining middle reduce progression opportunities for low-wage workers?
  • Why have different European countries experienced occupational polarization to varying degrees?

Selected papers:

  • Holmes, C, (2013) Are UK earnings distributions polarising?, paper presented at ISER workshop. Slides .
  • Holmes, C, and Mayhew, K, (2014), 'The winners and losers in the hourglass labour market', in Archer, L, Mann, A, and Stanley, J (eds.), ‘Understanding Employer Engagement in Education: theories and evidence’, London: Routledge.
  • Holmes, C, (2011), 'The route out of the routine: where do the displaced routine workers go?', SKOPE Research Paper No. 100. Link

Labour market segmentation

There are clear parallels between polarisation and the older literature on segmented labour markets. This has prompted an evaluation of the typologies of work organisation commonly discussed in this literature. The different ways that firms or occupations organise work have implications for career mobility. We hope to expand on existing typologies and incorporate new forms of work organisation into our analysis of mobility patterns.

Selected papers:

  • Thinking outside the box? Assessing mobility through typologies of employment organisation, 2011, SASE annual conference paper.

Higher education in recession

We look at the implications of the recession for higher education. On one hand, higher education is seen by policymakers as an engine for growth. On the other hand, austerity measures have placed limits on the size of the sector. This leads to two main questions:

  • Should policy be driven by the rate of return and the concept of a graduate premium?
  • Are there currently inefficiencies in the production of undergraduate degrees and the role of HE in facilitating entry into the labour market?

Selected papers:

  • Holmes, C, (2013), 'Has the expansion of higher education led to greater economic growth?', National Institute Economic Review, 224(1) pp. R29-47. Link.
  • Ten big questions for higher education, SKOPE Issues Paper 31. Link
  • UK higher education in recession, 2011, SKOPE Issues Paper 24. Link

Other research

  • Developing vocational excellence: learning environments within work environments, forthcoming (with Susan James ).
  • Are degrees worth higher fees? Perceptions of potential undergraduates on the financial benefits of entering higher education, forthcoming, SKOPE research paper (with Hubert Ertl  and Helen Carasso ). A draft Issues paper based on this research is available here.
  • Attractiveness in European IVET: what really matters?, 2012, report for Cedefop (with RAND Europe). The report was ultimately adapted into a Cedefop research paper.

Doctoral Research

My D.Phil thesis is entitled 'Myopia, retirement planning and commitment mechanisms' (Supervisor: Terry O'Shaughnessy). This comprised a number of themes.

  • Myopia and retirement planning: this chapter develops a model of saving and retirement with myopic individuals. It emphasises the connection between the two decisions in plans and realised outcomes, especially if a saving commitment mechanism is introduced.
  • The effect of myopia and pension payouts of the retirement decision: this chapter tests the theory developed in the first chapter using a laboratory experiment. This experiment asked participants to return to the lab on repeated occasions (simulating 'work') in exchange for a small wage and a growing saving pot (received when they participant did not return, or 'retired'). The experiment finds impulsive discounting is a strong predictor of the difference between planned and actual retirement. In contrast to existing approaches, it does not find that lump-sum payments delay retirement.
  • Rising wage profiles and saving commitment: rising wage profiles may act as saving commitment mechanisms. This paper develops a theory of myopic individuals and models demand for such wage profiles. It contrast this model with the existing literature which emphasises a preference for rising consumption - the demand for rising wages is found in the absence of such preferences.