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2023 Working Papers

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1486 - Primary and secondary legislation – assessing the impacts of rules for making rules

Jonathan Cave & Stephen Gibson

Impact assessments (IAs) of government regulatory policy proposals set out their expected costs, benefits and risks and who is likely to face those impacts. In the UK, primary legislation can confer powers on Government ministers and other bodies to enact Statutory Instruments (SIs) and other secondary legislation. Because SIs have the same effect as Acts of Parliament, but face significantly less scrutiny, there has been a trend to increase the use of this mechanism and to use them for areas of policy or principle, rather than purely administrative procedures. However, the different timing and treatment of primary and secondary legislation has important implications for the assessment of the impacts of the proposed measures in IAs. This paper outlines the rationale for a compound (primary and secondary) approach to introducing legislation, identifies different types of subordination and considers the implications for estimating their expected impacts in an IA - particularly when the assessment of the secondary measure happens after some of the uncertainty related to the possible outcomes of the primary measure has been resolved and this can be taken into account in the secondary decision(s). It points out the limitations of the conventional NPV-based approach to assessing the impacts of compound measures and proposes the use of a real options approach to IAs to address this concern. In particular it suggests that the real options approach should be used in cases where there are; uncertain outcomes, different possible timings, irreversible policy decisions and distortions due to the use of standard discount rates. Primary legislation creates the opportunity but not the obligation to pursue secondary measures and should be assessed taking these future options into account.

1476 - Non-Meritocrats or Conformist Meritocrats? A Redistribution Experiment in China and France

Margot Belguise, Yuchen Huang & Zhexun Mo

Recent empirical evidence contends that meritocratic ideals are mainly a Western phenomenon. Intriguingly, the Chinese people appear to not differentiate between merit- and luck-based inequalities, despite their rich historical legacy of meritocratic institutions. We propose that this phenomenon might be due to the Chinese public’s greater adherence towards the status quo. In order to test this hypothesis, we run an incentivized redistribution experiment with elite university students in China and France, by varying the initial split of payoffs between two real-life workers to redistribute from. We show that Chinese respondents consistently and significantly choose more non-redistribution (playing the status quo) across both highly unequal and relatively equal status quo scenarios than our French respondents. Additionally, we also show that the Chinese sample does differentiate between merit- and luck-based inequalities, and does not redistribute less than the French absent status quo conformity. Ultimately, we contend that such a phenomenon is indicative of low political agency rather than apathy, inattention, or libertarian beliefs among the Chinese. Notably, our findings show that Chinese individuals’ conformity to the status quo is particularly pronounced among those from families of working-class and farming backgrounds, while it is conspicuously absent among individuals whose families have closer ties to the private sector.

1464 - Identification of Expectational Shocks in the Oil Market using OPEC Announcements

Riccardo Degasperi

Surprises in the price of oil futures computed on the day of OPEC announcements have been used as an exogenous measure of shifts in market beliefs about future oil supply to identify shocks to oil supply expectations. I show that these surprises capture not only revisions in market expectations about oil supply, but also revisions in expectations about oil demand. This conflation of supply and demand components invalidates the use of the surprises as an exogenous measure of shocks to oil supply expectations. I show that imposing an additional restriction on the sign of the co-movement between surprises in oil futures and changes in stock prices within the day of the OPEC announcement disentangles the two underlying shocks. Accordingly, I derive two robust instruments for the identification of shocks to oil supply and demand expectations that combine the surprises with this additional sign restriction, and I test them on a set of empirical specifications modelling the oil market and the global economy. A negative shock to oil supply expectations has deep and long-lasting stagflationary effects on global economic conditions that are stronger and more immediate than previously reported. These effects represent a challenge for monetary authorities that seek to stabilise both prices and output. I show that information effects are a prominent feature of the oil market and need to be accounted for when estimating the effects of shocks to oil supply expectations.

1352 - Obesity Stigma : Causes, Consequences, and Potential Solutions

Thijs van Rens, Petra Hanson, Oyinlola Oyebode, Lukasz Walasek, Thomas M Barber and Lena Al-Khudairy

This review aims to examine (i) the aetiology of obesity ; (ii) how and why a perception of personal responsibility for obesity so dominantly frames this condition and how this mindset leads to stigma ; (iii) the consequences of obesity stigma for people living with obesity, and for the public support for interventions to prevent and manage this condition ; and (iv) potential strategies to diminish our focus on personal responsibility for the development of obesity, to enable a reduction of obesity stigma, and to move towards effective interventions to prevent and manage obesity within the population. Recent Findings We summarise literature which shows that obesity stems from a complex interplay of genetic and environment factors most of which are outside an individual’s control. Despite this, evidence of obesity stigmatisation remains abundant throughout areas of media, entertainment, social media and the internet, advertising, news outlets, and the political and public health landscape. This has damaging consequences including psychological, physical, and socioeconomic harm. Summary Obesity stigma does not prevent obesity. A combined, concerted, and sustained effort from multiple stakeholders and key decision-makers within society is required to dispel myths around personal responsibility for body weight, and to foster more empathy for people living in larger bodies. This also sets the scene for more effective policies and interventions, targeting the social and environmental drivers of health, to ultimately improve population health.

1446 - Healthy diets, lifestyle changes and well-being during and after lockdown: longitudinal evidence from the West Midlands

Thijs van Rens, Petra Hanson, Oyinlola Oyebode, Lukasz Walasek, Thomas M Barber and Lena Al-Khudairy

Lockdowns’ to control the spread of COVID-19 in the UK affected many aspects of life and may have adversely affected diets. We aimed to examine (1) the effect of lockdowns on fruit and vegetable consumption, as a proxy for healthy diets more generally, and on weight and well-being, (2) whether any subgroup was particularly affected and (3) the barriers and facilitators to a healthy diet in lockdown. We find no evidence for decreased fruit and vegetable consumption during lockdown compared with afterwards. If anything, consumption increased by half a portion daily among women, particularly among those who normally have a long commute. This finding, combined with a significant increase in physical activity, suggests that behaviours were healthier during lockdown, consistent with higher self-reported health. However, well-being deteriorated markedly, and participants reported being heavier during the lockdown as well. Our qualitative data suggest that an abundance of resources (more time) supported higher fruit and vegetable consumption during lockdown, despite increased access issues. Our results may assuage concerns that lockdowns adversely affected diets. They may point to the impact of commuting on diet, particularly for women. We add longitudinal evidence to a growing body of literature on the adverse effect of lockdown on mental health.