My research interests are in theoretical macroeconomics. The DSGE approach creates a mathematical laboratory model of the economy derived from individual optimising firms and households. The approach can be used to study an enormous range of topics such as economic growth, economic fluctuations and fiscal and monetary policy.
I am especially interested with the operation of monetary policy within imperfect competition models in the presence of financial frictions. A financial friction is the name given to a type of friction that prevents financial markets from operating efficiently. In the 2007/08 fear and panic effectively shut down the financial markets. This locked out firms and households from borrowing, reducing investment and consumption and greatly amplifying the recession. The research question is then what is the optimal monetary policy in the presence of these frictions.
The 2007/08 crisis has also created a revival of interest in fiscal policy. This in part due to the limits of monetary policy and in part due to the very large increase in government debt created by the recession. A good deal of empirical research has shown that the effects of fiscal policy (tax and government spending) varies greatly with the state of the economy. Understanding the causes of this, and how this is related to the financial frictions mentioned above is a key area of current research.
As well as fiscal and monetary policy, I am also interested in in the causes of exchange rate and financial crises and the optimal design of exchange rate regimes.
Both in my research and in my teaching, the behaviour of global firms takes centre-stage.
Many things we do on a daily basis involve dealing with a global firm: we use Google to look up what we want to buy, use Microsoft’s operating system, order products through Amazon. We stay in contact using our Apple iphone and maybe even work for a large multinational firm. Markets are dominated by superstar firms: they are large, flexible, footloose and powerful. While we may love the large variety of products these firms offer at low prices, the flexibility of these firms enables them to “vote with their feet”. They may move the production of their goods to places where labour legislation is poor (locations famous for “sweatshops”) and environmental legislation is lax (creating “pollution havens”). They sometimes locate administrative offices in locations where taxes are low, so called “tax havens”. As research has revealed the extent to which these superstar firms are able to avoid paying taxes by shifting activities around the globe, governments are cooperating to limit this tax-avoiding behaviour by setting out minimum global tax rates.
While tax harmonisation and its effects feature in my research, I also look at other policies governments use to attract or retain multinational firms, such as infrastructure projects (think of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative) and employment legislation. In addition, my work emphasises that government policy often has unanticipated undesirable effects on firm behaviour. For instance, policies that limit trade, such as import tariffs, tends to reduce innovation by global, research-intensive firms; firm-specific emission taxes tend to create opportunistic firm behaviour in ‘green’ investment.
My research interests are reflected in my teaching. I teach firm behaviour and competition policy. In the course “History of Economic Thought”, I emphasise that it is important that we realise how and why ideas have evolved and that we learn from the thinkers who came before us.
In my research, I try to answer questions that are relevant to policy by applying statistical techniques – known as econometrics – to Irish data in order to understand what factors drive economic outcomes in the real world.
My research mainly concerns inequality, in both the labour market and the education system.
I am fascinated by earnings inequality. Why do different workers get paid different amounts and why do they get different pay rises from year to year? Why are workers treated differently during a recession – why do some continue to get pay rises while others have their wages cut? Is this because they’re working for the ‘wrong’ firm? Or is it because of something about the worker’s education or experience?
A related question concerns why women earn less than men even though on average, they’re better educated. Is this pure discrimination? Is it because they tend to drop out of the labour market when they have children? Or do the occupations that women choose – or even the subjects girls choose in school – also contribute?
I’m also very interested in education and how it affects labour market outcomes. How do single-sex schools affect boys’ and girls’ maths scores? This is an important question because good maths scores open doors to high-paying occupations in science and engineering. How do different types of higher education feed into graduate earnings? What constitutes a ‘good school’? Is it a school where high-performing students happen to go, or a school that makes a big difference to its students’ grades? Together with my Maynooth colleagues, we argued for the latter and showed that fee-paying schools are no better on average than other types of schools in this regard.
I enjoy working on Irish public policy, both in my academic research and in my work for government. With some Maynooth colleagues, I wrote an academic paper that examined the effects of cuts to Jobsearch Assistance payments (‘the dole’) in 2009 on how long young people stayed unemployed – and then discussed our results with the Department of Social Protection. With an Australian colleague, I examined the feasibility of introducing student loans in Ireland – and used that research to contribute to a government report on higher education funding. With my Maynooth colleagues, I’ve written a report on the possible introduction of the Living Wage for the government’s Low Pay Commission, just as I was involved in a report for the government when they were thinking of introducing a National Minimum Wage. I was also a member of the Pensions Commission that recently reported to government on the issue of the state pension age.
This connection between my academic research and policy making greatly benefits my teaching. I teach Introductory Econometrics to second year students and Labour Economics to master’s students and I bring my research and policy experience into these classes at every opportunity.
Hi, my name is Alex Farnell and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics here at Maynooth.
I am a sports economist, which means that I get to use data and statistics on football, NFL, baseball, basketball etc. on a daily basis! Below is a brief overview of the field of sports economics, and some of my work.
You may be thinking – what on earth can sports tell us about economics, or even what can economics tell us about sports? Typically, sports economics involves using sports data (for example footballer’s wages, the performances of a baseball pitcher etc.) to test a whole array of economic theories. To see why this may be advantageous, let’s consider an example. Suppose you are interested in how a worker’s pay is related to their performance. This may prove quite difficult to answer for the case of a bus driver or an accountant, as it not exactly clear how we define their performance. But we know how many goals a striker scores, we know how many successful throws a quarterback makes, and we know how many shirts are sold with Cristiano Ronaldo’s name on the back. This makes sports a really attractive setting to explore a host of economic issues, because we have so much data on it.
To give you an idea about some of my past and ongoing work, here is a quick summary.
The Impact of Head Coaches on Football Team Performance
Organisations may seek to improve their performance by changing the boss. For many businesses, this would mean replacing the CEO. The role of the CEO in sports teams is filled by the Head Coach, and teams regularly change their Head Coach with the hope of seeing an improvement in results. Perhaps surprisingly, this work shows that changing a coach makes very little difference to results. This is because Head Coaches differ very little in terms of their ability, so they find it very difficult to make even a small different to performance.
Effects of multitasking in baseball
Almost all jobs in the modern-day workplace require that workers carry out a variety of different tasks over the course of a working day, but we know very little about whether this affects their productivity. This work looks at the effects on performance of workers having to focus on different tasks, using baseball pitchers to illustrate. Pitchers are required to sequentially pitch and bat over the course of a game, and this work finds that batting is associated with improved pitching performance.
Footballers and their recovery from Covid-19 infections
We have become all too familiar with the phrase “long-Covid” in recent months; those infected by the virus, in some cases even very fit individuals, experience long lasting effects. In this work, we track the performance of footballer’s in the top 5 European leagues who were infected by Covid. We find very little evidence of a long lasting effect on the performance of footballers. Their recovery period is typically only 2-3 games before returning to full fitness. It would appear that teams do a good job of managing the player’s workload on their return from infection.
My research is mainly about how changes in trade, industrial and tax policies affect the behaviour of large firms and how that impacts on consumers. For many decades up until quite recently, there has been a gradual removal or reduction of restrictions on the free exchange of goods and services between nations. However, in the last few years we have witnessed an increase in barriers to international trade resulting from changes in government policy. An important example of this in the European context is Brexit. I work on the effect of trade costs on the volume of international trade and on the prices paid by consumers.
For many years governments -such as the one in Ireland- have used favourable tax treatment to attract and retain multinational firms. However, recently there have been moves to limit such competition. My research investigates how corporate tax competition and tax coordination affect the outcomes for different countries. Of course, taxes are not the only thing that firms care about when deciding where to locate. Public infrastructure is also important. I look at how policy towards public infrastructure interacts with tax competition.
Large international firms have extensive supply chains spanning many countries. Their inputs are produced in many different countries. I study how the international outsourcing decisions of such firms can be expected to affect their profitability, the prices paid by consumers and the wages of the firms’ workers.
My name is Bruno Morando and I am lecturer at the Department of Economics.
In my research, I combine theory and data analysis techniques to address a wide range of economic issues:
Farmers in the developing World.
There are approximately 2.5 billion farmers in the developing World, and they are considered the “poorest of the poor” as their productivity is several times lower than the ones in Europe and the US. My research aims to understand why this is the case. I find that farmers productivity and welfare are constrained by the lack of access to markets, which force them to grow sub-optimal crops for self-consumption and does not allow them to grow their farm size and increase their income.
EU agricultural subsidies.
Every year, the EU devotes a very large share of its budget to subsidies to the farming sector, which is considered a key priority and to deserve special protection and attention. In 2019, nearly €60 billion were spent in farm subsidies. There is a huge debate on the best way to allocate this money across farmers and a big reform were implemented in 2005 to make such subsidies independent from production choices to reduce their impact on the sector’s productivity. In a novel work, I find that the reform failed to improve the efficiency in EU agricultural productions and that these subsidies (yet crucial to the survival of farmers) still reduce aggregate production by about 10%.
The impact of mining activities on the local economy.
There is a great debate on the impact of mining activities on the economy of countries. The resource course theory suggests that extractive industries might be detrimental to a country’s economy as the sector would absorb productive inputs and promote bad institutions. In my work, I study the impact of the contraction in mining happened in South Africa where about one every ten jobs in mining disappeared. I find that for every lost job in mining, two more local high paying jobs in the service sectors disappeared, and this was only partially compensated by an expansion in the (less profitable) manufacturing and agricultural sectors.
The impact of trade protection measures on productivity.
Tariffs are a common tool used to protect local economic activities. On a theoretical ground, such policies can potentially backfire, reducing the competitiveness of the market and the productivity of the domestic economy. I study the impact of tariffs on South African productivity and find that they indeed reduce a sector’s productivity by allowing less competitive establishment to survive and penalizing the more productive business who could compete in the global market preventing them from growing and thrive.
In my classes, I use insights from my research as practical examples to explain core economic concepts and focus on their implications for current issues in the Irish and international context. My courses are widely appreciated by students and I have won numerous teaching awards both as a lecturer and as a teaching assistant.
Hi! I am Irene Mosca and I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics.
My research interests are in the fields of health, population and labour economics. My research is applied. I use large datasets and apply statistical methods to answer questions such as: are unemployed individuals more likely to be in poorer mental health? Are people who just retired more likely to volunteer than people who have not retired as yet? Does retirement trigger cognitive decline? Is there a link between health in childhood and economic success in adulthood? Does emigration of adult children have an effect on the mental health of older parents left behind?
Using datasets is fun! You can think of datasets as large tables where every row corresponds to a person and every column gives you some information about that person. For example, one column could tell you how old that person is. Another column could tell you whether that person is married or not. Another column could tell you whether that person is in employment or not.
I have been living in Ireland for more than a decade now, so I have a good knowledge of Irish datasets. A lot of them are publicly available, meaning that also students can use them to investigate a wide range of issues pertaining to the Irish economy. Nowadays, there are also a number of user-friendly but sophisticated software packages that students and researchers can use to analyse the data stored in these large datasets.
My research interests are reflected in my teaching. For example, I teach Health Economics. In my classes, I use insights from research that I have carried out or that other researchers around the world have carried out as practical examples to explain core economic concepts.
Economics is so much more than learning off definitions and facts. Economics is about understanding the world around us, studying what leads people to make the decisions they choose and evaluating the consequences of those decisions.
I am an applied econometrician which means I combine statistical techniques with appropriate data to answer these questions. While this approach can be applied to any question or topic my research focuses on questions related to the labour market and related areas such as education and health. What happens to wages, employment and hours when the government raises the minimum wage. What happens to unemployment when the government cuts unemployment benefit? To what extent are the incomes of children determined by their parents’ circumstances. How important are schools in determining a student’s exam results or future earnings and what makes a good school? What impact does obesity have on wages and why, and more generally how should we measure obesity?
These are all interesting, fun topics to work on but equally important the answers to these questions can shape government policy decisions and affect the lives of thousands of people. From 2015-2019 I served as the labour market expert on the Low Pay Commission, a statutory government body that evaluates evidence and makes recommendations to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment designed to set a minimum wage that is fair and sustainable. During my tenure the minimum wage was increased by over 13% and almost a quarter of million of the most vulnerable low paid workers had their wages increased as a result.
My work with colleagues Aedín Doris and Olive Sweetman titled “Good Schools or Good Students” featured in a number of media articles including an article in the Irish Times titled “A better way to measure school performance”. Providing information on schools can greatly assist parents and children make appropriate choices but only if the tables are constructed in a sensible and meaningful way. This article discusses how school league tables published in the national media are a poor reflection of school quality because they fail to account for differences in the quality of students before they even enter school. We discuss the benefits of adopting a value-added approach that nets out the prior achievement levels and family circumstances of students before evaluating school performance. Our research shows that doing this properly big differences to a school’s ranking in published league tables which may have big implications when it comes to choosing a good school.
In my teaching I get to discuss these issues in more detail with students. A famous economist once described economics as a technique of thinking, which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions. In other words, economics teaches you how to think, not what to think. I teach econometrics, in which students learn the statistical techniques needed to answer the “what if” questions highlighted in my research. I get to discuss specific “what if” examples in the Economics of Crime – what happens to crime if more police are deployed? and also in Labour Economics – what happens to children with behavioural problems if we provide classroom management training to teachers? Learning to think like an economist helps answer these and many other big important life questions.
My research interests revolve around two main issues. Firstly, can policymakers influence the behaviour of private ‘agents’, be they individuals, firms or organisations, to act in the social interest. Secondly, can private agents ‘co-operate’ to achieve socially desirable outcomes that cannot be attained in the absence of such co-operation. This can be applied to areas such as industrial organisation, environmental economics and sports.
In general, the actions of private agents may not be in the social interest in the sense that there is too much of a ‘bad’ thing and too little of ‘good’ things. The role of policymakers is to implement policies that discourage what are deemed to be socially damaging actions, and encourage what is perceived to be socially beneficial.
Producers/Firms may have little incentive to engage in innovation to produce lower cost and/or higher quality products or to reduce environmental damage. This is because their competitors may learn of their innovations and acquire the same information at a fraction of the cost. Similarly, individual countries may not have an incentive to reduce their own CO2 emissions if they believe that other countries will reduce theirs. One role for policymakers is to ‘subsidise’ such activities so that the net cost is lower to firms and incentivises their innovation which can have long-term social benefits. Examples would be pharmaceutical drugs and emission abatement technology. Another is for individual governments to form an effective agreement to reduce emission/pollution levels.
Another possibility is that private agents may ‘cooperate’ and jointly carry out such innovation by sharing the risk/cost and sharing the information. Normally, economists would be against ‘collusion’ but it may be welcomed if it is deemed in the social interest. I am interested in the conditions required for such cooperation to lead to a better outcomes than non-cooperation.
In a sporting sense, players, teams and owners may have an incentive to cheat in order to increase their likelihood of winning or being successful. This can have a negative impact on ‘clean’ players and may put pressure on individual players to put their health and careers in jeopardy. I am interested in how sporting organisations can implement policies to prevent such ‘cheating’, particularly when it may not be possible to always detect cheating when it occurs.
Hi! I am Tuvana Pastine. I am the Head of the Economics Department.
In my research, I use game theory which is a powerful tool in any situation with strategic interaction. A good chess player figures out the repercussions of each play before making a move. If the player is unable to correctly anticipate how the other will respond, the game is lost. The same is true in many real-life situations from competition between Apple and Samsung in the smart phone market to politics.
It’s all a game from business wars to political campaigns.
Have you heard of the term ‘cobra effect’? The British colonial government was fed up with the venomous cobras in India. So, the British Empire started giving a cash prize to locals for every dead snake. Something the British did not expect happened; the locals set up snake farms and saw the money roll in. Game theory can help us avoid making policies with unintended consequences.
There is strategic interaction everywhere. Game theory is used to analyse problems in economics, sociology, business, finance, evolutionary biology, and even in engineering. In my research I have specialized on advertising wars and price competition. My recent interest is analysing political campaign finance legislation.
Game theory is a mathematical study. However, mathematics should not stand in the way of people accessing the basic logic of game theory. I have co-authored a non-technical book to introduce anyone and everyone to the subject:
Introducing Game Theory: A Graphic Guide.
The book is a very easy read and it is an Amazon #1 best-seller four years and counting. It shows how game theory can help us understand why investment markets - such as the Irish housing market - suffer from speculative bubbles and then crashes; why evolution does not always improve the fitness of a species; why your wireless network is so slow, and what can be done about it; why it is difficult to move society away from gender-based role division; why religious groups often wear distinctive clothing; why international cooperation to take action to combat climate change is challenging.
In my lectures, I often play simple classroom games that have a broad application to real life situations. This allows participants to fully internalize the incentives faced by the firm/government/politician depending on the application.
My research is very eclectic, mirroring my very broad interests in all aspects of economics.
I began my economics journey with an observation that ran counter to accepted wisdom: banks made loans to customers not from an information deficit but an information advantage. This advantage came from lending to many firms in the same industry. This knowledge was power that could enable banks to control industries through their lending practices. Examples of this style of banking were found in Germany, with its industry banks, as well as in the United States and other western economies. As my interests expanded, I began to examine questions of defense spending and policy in a dynamic, two-country model of the economy. Mutually assured destruction did sometimes make sense as a policy to ensure that such destruction never took place. While defense economics was fascinating, more compelling were the insights gained from examining social security, medical care for the aged, and maintaining and improving the environment in dynamic, general equilibrium models of the economy. The questions we asked probed issues from the financing of social security and medical care for the elderly on lifetime wellbeing, economic growth, productivity and saving, and whether economies would choose to maintain and improve the environment or could find themselves mired in an economy with a poor environment without the wherewithal to clean it up. Issues in health, such as obesity – is it a neighborhood effect? – and market incentives to overindulge – was the economic assumption of free disposal compelling? – also engaged my interest and study. These studies were all at the macroeconomic level, but there were questions that attracted me at the microeconomic level as well. While economists tend to assume that people are born with particular preferences, my lived experience suggested otherwise. This led me to examine the role of religion in preference, identity and community formation as well as to study the role of hope and despair, two emotions generally ignored by economists, in individual economic behavior. This work draws on diverse disciplines from the arts to theology to literature to psychology to biology. Additional work in these areas is ongoing.
New areas of interest include the fascinating financial history of Ireland, the formation and growth of nations, and why our current inflationary period is different.
My main interests are in the areas of Labour Economics and the Economics of Education.
A lot of research in Applied Labour Economics is concerned with identification of true causal effects. For instance, we might be interested in finding out if attendance at a particular type of school leads to higher exam scores or if an increase in unemployment benefit leads to longer spells of unemployment for individuals. Economists use different methods to identify causal effects and I will outline two different methodologies that we use in our research.
If we observe that people who attend particular types of secondary schools perform better on exams, does this necessarily mean that attendance caused this person to earn more? Were there differences in these groups before they attended (e.g. family income, previous performance) that might also be important in determining scores on exams? Ideally to answer this question, you would like to send the same person to different types of schools and then observe the difference in their exam scores. Given that this is not possible, one alternative is that we compare people with the similar characteristics but who went to different types of schools. In our research on this area, we found that controlling for other background characteristics was very important in estimating the true effect of type of school attended.
In another piece of research, we examined the effect of a change in the legislation that reduced unemployment benefit for 18- and 19-year-olds but only applied to those who became unemployed after April 29 2009. We compared the unemployment duration of young people who became unemployed just before and just after April 29. The idea here is that these two groups are going to be largely similar apart from the fact that one is receiving lower unemployment benefit. We find that those who became unemployed after April 29, and therefore received lower benefit, had significantly shorter unemployment spells, which we are confident is a true causal effect of the unemployment benefit reduction for this age group.