INET@Oxford Research

I am currently a senior research fellow on the Employment, Equity and Growth programme within the Institute for New Economic Thinking in Oxford. 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 distribution. It will seek to understand why our current growth models are failing and what may be required for better, fairer growth.

My main research questions on 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 degreess
I am also involved in work on the implication of future robotisation for skills policy and job quality.


  • Holmes, C, (2016), ‘How Should Education Adapt In the Race Between Education and Technology?’ In Citi GPS, Technology at Work v2.0: The Future Is Not What It Used to Be, London: Citi GPS. Link.

Working papers

  • Holmes, C, and Mayhew, K, (2015), 'Have UK earnings distributions really polarised?'. Link . (An earlier version of this paper was presented at an ISER workshop in September 2013. Slides. A shorter summary of this research was presented at the Resolution Foundation event 'Hollowing out - deeper than it sounds'. Slides and video of the presentations can be found here.)
  • Holmes, C, (forthcoming), ‘Polarisation and occupational mobility in the UK: analysis of the British Household Panel Survey’ INET working paper.
  • Holmes, C, (forthcoming), ‘Polarisation and occupational mobility in the UK: an occupational gravity model approach’ INET working paper.


SKOPE Research

My work at SKOPE formed part of the centre's third ESRC research programme (2008-2013).

Polarisation and labour market segmentation

Selected publications:

  • Holmes, C, (2014), Why is the decline in routine jobs across Europe so uneven, SKOPE Issues Paper no. 33. Link. FT coverage.
  • 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
  • Holmes, C, and Mayhew, K, (2012), 'The changing shape of the UK job market and its implications for the bottom half of earners', Report for the Resolution Foundation, London: Resolution. Link Summary

Higher education, growth and upskilling

Selected publications:

  • Holmes, C, and Mayhew, K, (2016), 'The economics of higher education', Oxford Review of Economic Policy 32(4), pp 475-496. Link
  • Holmes, C, and Mayhew, K, (2016), Alternative pathways into the graduate labour market, London: CIPD. Link
  • Holmes, C, and Mayhew, K, (2015), Over-qualification and skills mismatch in the graduate labour market, London: CIPD. Link
  • 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

  • Understanding progression into higher education for disadvantaged and under-represented groups, BIS research paper no. 229 available here.
  • Developing vocational excellence: learning environments within work environments, forthcoming (with Susan James Relly).
  • 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.