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III Research Innovation Fund

We are pleased to award small grants to researchers at the LSE researching inequality through the III Research Innovation Fund (RIF). 

Funded research takes place across a number of departments and disciplines, but all with new approaches to understanding inequality.

Research Innovation Fund: Round Three (applications now open)

Applications for funding from the III Research Innovation Fund Round Three (academic year 2017-2018) are now open. 

The Management Committee of the III will consider grant applications to support research and research-related activities related to any aspect of inequality, using research approaches appropriate to the applicant's disciplinary background, from members of the academic staff of the LSE who are on a salary band 7 or above and whose continuous employment demonstrates a substantial long-term commitment to the School, and who would be employed for the duration of the grant.

Grants are intended to support and facilitate research related to inequality in all its forms. Activities can include pump-priming projects for later, larger-scale research; topping up of on-going projects; research assistance; partial buy-outs; research-related travel; data and materials; visits to LSE by collaborators. Funding is not available for conference attendance or conference or seminar organisation (but would be available for workshops with research collaborators).

Appplications for funding will be considered up to a maximum of £10,000, but we expect typical grants to average less than this. 

Further information can be found in the application form.

Closing date for applications is 31 March 2017.

Research Innovation Fund: Round Two

Seven projects were successful and received funding in round two. (In alphabetical order):

De-industrialisation through the lens of working class women

Researcher: Dr Lisa Mckenzie, Department of Sociology

This research will continue the work started by the Great British Class Survey through examining the lens of working class post-industrial women’s lives and identities. Since the slow process of Britain's de-industrialisation began in the early 1970's to its almost conclusion in the 1990s traditional working class identities have viewed problematically in the British psyche. This research will focus on women's industrial- and consequently post­industrial- identities which are often overlooked.

The research will be undertaken in a small town in North Nottinghamshire. Once a busy and industrious place by early 1990’s all of the Coal Mines were closed, and by the early 2000's all of the textile factories had closed in this town. The researcher will undertake an intense ethnographic project living in the town for two months.  The methodology will include in-depth interviews with women aged 18 and over in order to speak to those women that worked in the factories, and whose husbands, fathers, brothers and boyfriends were miners, to the younger women in the town who have not known this type of employment security, or working class identity based on industrialised work.  The aims of the research are to begin to unravel the complicated politics, and what could be seen as a nostalgic collective grief, focusing on the narrative that emerges through the visual and the interviews with the women of the town.

Network effects in digital exclusion:  Social contextual explanations of the links between social and digital inequalities

Researcher: Professor Ellen Helsper, Department of Media and Communications

This is a digital age; most aspects of our lives have online parallels, both positive and negative. An established negative relation is the replication and even exacerbation of forms of inequalities through inequalities in digital resources. Currently digital inequalities are theorised and researched referring to access, different ICT related skills, types of engagement, and the tangible outcomes of this use. The From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes (DiSTO) project on which this research builds, has developed a conceptual framework and measures around these resources. Two aspects still remain undertheorised and underresearched: motivations for (dis)engagement and the impact of everyday social contexts on the acquisition of digital resources.

This study develops a theoretical model and empirical instruments around motivational factors and relates these to network effects. Qualitative and quantitative comparative research will be conducted in London and Los Angeles. These cities show high levels of traditional inequalities but differ in terms of the homogeneity of their neighbourhood, making them ideal to examine differential network effects.

This project will inform policy making through improving understanding of the actively used and impactful heat maps of exclusion in a Digital Britain constructed in collaboration with Go On, a digital skills multi-stakeholder charity aiming to tackle digital exclusion. It will provide a first insight into the role of motivation in these processes and indicate actions to counter potential negative network effects.

Private renting and social landlords:  how does this expanding sector help address homelessness and vulnerability, insecurity and other signs of deep inequality?

Researcher: Professor Anne Power, LSE Housing & Communities

Private renting is growing extremely fast, faster than any other tenure. It has recently overtaken social housing in numbers of households accommodated, and totals over 5 million units. It increasingly houses low-income families who are unable to access social housing; it also houses large numbers of vulnerable single and formerly homeless people, as well as many younger households on modest incomes who cannot access social renting or owner occupation.

This research project will examine both the problems and potential of private renting in tackling homelessness, unaffordability, insecurity and poor conditions, by involving social landlords. It will directly address inequality in access to, and ability to pay for, a decent home. It will collect and disseminate previously hard-to-access and disparate information on private renting, drawing on evidence from social and private landlords, practical examples and models that tackle homelessness, insecurity, affordability and quality.

An objective is to strengthen the policy focus on private renting, highlighting its value, challenges and opportunities in tackling homelessness, insecurity and affordability. The project will inform government, professional housing bodies {Chartered Institute of Housing and National Housing Federation), local authorities (through the Local Government Association), leading housing associations, private landlord bodies, accreditation and licensing bodies, tenants' and residents' organisations. It will arouse significant public and press interest. It is a very vital and current story.

Private tutoring and its implications for inequality:  what can England learn from South Korean attempts to regulate ‘shadow education’?

Researcher: Professor Sonia Exley, Department of Social Policy

Private tutoring is a phenomenon which has been growing significantly among more affluent groups in England over the last decade and it poses a real risk of undermining social policy efforts towards equalising opportunities in childhood through public social investment. Governments in England have to date shied away from imposing any clear regulations on the country's growing 'shadow education', but they may have much to learn from a country such as South Korea.

Pioneering measures aiming to regulate and disincentivise such markets which have been tested in the 'critical case' of South Korea will be explored and evaluated with a view to considering their specific relevance for England. The project will explore government policy responses in South Korea to major inequality implications posed by vast private tutoring (supplementary or 'shadow' education) markets which have become endemic in East Asia.

The project will examine how far South Korea and England may be converging over time in terms of societal expectations about what should be 'public' and 'private' in the financing, delivery and regulation of education (e.g. Green, 2015). It will seek to explainpossible convergence and also exploreImplications for inequality. Findings will be disseminated as widely as possible to policy audiences in addition to academic audiences.

The Effects of Welfare Programs on Formal Labour Markets in Middle-Income Countries:  Evidence from Conditional Cash Transfer Programs in Brazil

Researcher: Professor Joana Naritomi, Department of International Development

Latin America remains the most unequal region of the world (Tsounta and Osueke, 2014). Welfare programs, such as Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), have expanded widely in the region in the past 15 years and have been credited for a sizable reduction in poverty rates (Soares et al., 2009). Yet, potential unintended consequences on labour markets have spurred a heated political debate over the future of these programs. There is a concern - similar to the debate about welfare programs in richer countries - that they create substantial efficiency costs by lowering incentives to work, particularly in the formal sector as many programs condition continued eligibility on observed or reported income levels.

This project will use unique data to provide new evidence on the partial and general equilibrium effects of welfare programs on formal labour markets in Brazil. Our results on equilibrium wages will also provide new evidence on indirect effects of welfare programs on wage inequality in the formal sector. The study, therefore, will contribute to the academic literature and inform the debate on the future of a key policy instrument to reduce income inequality in middle-income countries.

The role of capital income, capital gains and their taxation in the development of UK income inequality – feasibility study

Researcher: Dr Abigail McKnight, of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion.

This research seeks to understand how capital income and capital gains have contributed to trends in UK income inequality and the role of taxation in shaping these trends. Many studies have documented changes to UK income inequality but very little is known about the role of capital income and capital gains in shaping these trends.  Previous studies have shown that those on higher incomes are most likely to receive income from capital and the composition of income among this group fluctuates over time and appears to be sensitive to tax policy incentives. Tax policy in relation to wealth, particularly capital gains is topical and a number of changes have been introduced in recent years.

This project will use the rich underutilised administrative data made available through the HMRC Datalab. The advantage of these data over household survey data is their good coverage of high income individuals. However, income is computed at a personal level rather than the more conventional household level and individuals without tax liabilities are under­represented as is capital income and capital gains that are not liable for tax. This research will compare the statistics with other data sources conducting a feasibility study linking HMRC data series and the production of descriptive statistic to assess the data series in terms of quality and validity.

US Investors as Exporters of the ‘Winner-Take-All’ Economy

Researcher: Professor Jonathan Hopkin, Department of Government

Recent scholarly work has effectively drawn public attention on the stark increases in top incomes and the concentration of wealth during the period of globalisation. A crucial aspect of the phenomenon, are the significant cross-national differences that have accompanied such trends. The increases in average salaries (and share of national income) of the top one percent from 1960s – 2000s have been particularly sharp in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway or Australia, but were much more moderate (or even decreased) in most other advanced economies including Switzerland, France, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. To explain such differences, previous scholarship has highlighted the role of corporatist institutions in reducing pressures to increase executive pay, but it remains largely silent on the question of the source of these pressures.

This research will challenge the notion that this is an exogenous 'common trend' or an 'inherent law' of capitalist development, and argues that it is primarily an outcome of political decisions that were taken in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s that led to the adoption of executive remuneration practices, which were subsequently exported to other advanced economies through the operations abroad of US multinational companies and institutional investors. It proposes that national levels of executive remuneration depend not only on the configuration of corporatist institutions in an economy, but also the degree of exposure to US investors.

To test this argument empirically, this research will first examine statistically the extent to which increases in US ownership of domestically operating companies leads to increases in remuneration of companies' CEOs and board members in national environments with different alignments of corporatist institutions, and then further investigate the causal mechanisms underlying these relations through qualitative investigations.

Research Innovation Fund: Round One

Seven projects were successful and received funding in round one. (In alphabetical order):

Decentralized, Democratic Land Management in Kenya: Implications for Land Inequality, Land Security, Land Markets

Researchers: Professor Catherine Boone, Department of International Development and Government with international partners

It is almost axiomatic in the international development literature that "democratic decentralization" will mitigate socio-economic inequality, it is assumed to enhance the welfare of the poor through improved governance, better representation, and stronger downward accountability. In Kenya, decentralized land administration should be one of the main mechanisms producing these hoped-for effects.

Kenya is a largely agrarian society beset by acute land inequalities, rural poverty, and a bitter history of conflicts over land misallocation and land grabbing. Kenya's 2010 constitution empowered 47 new counties to take over key aspects of land administration, including public lands oversight, land registry clean-up, and management of 'trust lands' 

These new structures are slowly coming online, creating a vast new research terrain for scholars interested in the causes of equality and inequality in Kenya and in other developing countries. This project exploits variation in county-level land administration in an effort to identify local level determinants of equity-enhancing outcomes.

Read Professor Boone's working paper and related blog post based on this project.

Global Dynamics of Inequality: An Interdisciplinary Examination of the ‘Decoupling’ of the Political and the Economic

Researchers: Professor Deborah James and Dr Dena Freeman, Department of Anthropology

The first part of this study is an interdisciplinary historical examination of the relationship between the ‘political’ and the ‘economic’ in Europe from 1700-1970, as both capitalism and democracy developed. The central hypothesis that will be tested and refined is that in the period from 1700-1945 the spheres of political decision-making and of economic activity were largely separate as most people, whether in Europe or the colonies, had no political voice regarding the economic policies that were implemented.

It was only in the period from 1945-1970 that the spheres of the political and the economic largely ‘overlapped’ in Europe. In this period there was for the first time universal suffrage and an economy that centred to a great extent at the national level. It is no coincidence that this is the only time in European history, since the 14th century, that economic inequality has declined. It is hypothesised that the increasing rate of inequality that can be seen developing since 1970 is due to processes that are leading again to the decoupling of the political and the economic.

The second part of this research will therefore examine contemporary processes of ‘decoupling’ and explore a number of national and global institutions in which this process takes place, such as national debt management offices and ‘independent’ central banks. The aim is to identify one or two such institutions for further empirical study in order to elucidate in more detail the processes that are leading to the contemporary increases in inequality at national and global levels.

Income and Health Inequality Aversion: Space, Stability and Determinants

Researchers: Dr Joan Costa-Font, Department of Social Policy and Professor Frank Cowell, Department of Economics

This project aims to improve our understanding of individual inequality aversion (IA) in the spaces of both income and health, as well as to assess the stability of IA parameters over time.

There are two main sets of research questions: First, what factors determine individual preferences for more equal distributions of income and health? Are there differences between individuals evaluation in both spaces? Second, are IA estimates stable over time? On determinants we plan to examine the influence of risk and time preferences, more general individual’s attitudes to redistribution and the NHS as well as individual characteristics such as their health status, income and wealth, gender and age. We plan to examine evidence from a representative survey of the English population in two periods of time using an innovative elicitation technique.

Inequality and the Firm

Researchers: Professors Sandy Pepper and Paul Willman, Department of Management

The central focus of the proposal is to look at the role of the modern firm in the creation of inequality of income. Specifically, we will examine the growth in the use of asset based rewards for senior executives, combined with continued use of salaried rewards for other employees, and the impact this has on measures of inequality within the firm.

This relates the Piketty argument to corporate policies on remuneration; if Piketty is correct that asset values tend to outstrip GDP then, other things equal, policies that reward one group with assets and others with wages will increase income inequality within the firm over time.

We argue that, since employment in firms that use asset based rewards for executives remains a substantial proportion of overall employment, the use of the firm as the unit of analysis for the examination of inequality, whether from a theoretical or policy based point of view, has some merit.

Morals or Markets? Understanding Public Discourse on Income Inequality

Researchers: Dr Patrick McGovern, Department of Sociology & Professor Martin Bauer, Department of Social Psychology

Despite the increased prominence of income inequality as a subject of mass media interest, we do not have any systematic analysis in either sociology or social psychology as to how the media inform, cultivate ideas and contribute to debates about income inequality. We believe that examining media reporting will contribute towards an understanding of how dramatic rises in income inequality are tolerated on the basis that the media can influence what people think by shaping what they think about. We propose to address this gap through an examination of the way that income inequality is framed in mass media discourse, how these frames relate to different social strata, and how the issue of income inequality has evolved over time. We are especially interested in understanding how such inequalities are normalized within Neo-liberal discourse (a term that is also much discussed by little studied) and contested as a moral issue.

Patient experiences of hospital care: bringing socio-economic inequality into the analysis

Researchers: Dr Tania Burchardt and Dr Polly Vizard, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion

The research will examine how patient experiences of hospital care in England relate to socio-economic inequality. The research findings will extend and deepen a previous study which examined how inequality in patient experiences of hospital care relate to factors such as gender, age, disability, length of hospital stay, number of wards stayed in, quality and quantity of nursing staff, and hospital trust. Whereas the previous study did not assess the importance of socio-economic inequality as a driver of patient experience, the proposed research examines the relationship between patient experiences of hospital care (the outcome variable with which we are concerned) and inequality along the spectrum of socio-economic advantage and disadvantage (as an explanatory variable).

Concern with patient experience of hospital care has moved up the political and public policy agenda following the Independent and Public Inquiries into Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. However, quantitative analysis of patient experience data remains limited and the evidence base on inequalities even more so. The research will focus on patient experiences of dignity and nutrition which are increasingly viewed as key markers of the quality of hospital care.

Tracking intersecting inequalities in a context of declining income inequality: a case study of Brazil

Researchers: Professor Naila Kabeer, Professor of Gender and International Development at the Gender Institute and Ricardo Santos, PhD researcher in Economics from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

In an influential paper commissioned by the UN-MDG Achievement Fund , Kabeer (2010) used the concept of ‘intersecting inequalities’ to critique the averaging methodology of the MDGs, its preoccupation with income poverty and its failure to acknowledge how progress (or lack thereof) on the different goals was unequally distributed among different socio-economic groups.

Using empirical evidence, the paper argued that ‘it was the socially excluded sections of the poor who are systematically left out or left behind from their countries’ progress. For such groups, economic inequalities are compound by forms of discrimination based on socially devalued identities (race, ethnicity, caste, with gender cutting across these), locational disadvantage and political disenfranchisement.

A follow up paper, subsequently commissioned by the MDG Achievement Fund, drew out policy lessons for addressing intersecting inequalities (co-authored with Aracuco et al., 2014). Not surprisingly, Brazil featured centrally as a country from which lessons could be drawn. While income inequality remains high, it has experienced steady reductions in income inequality, particularly since 2001, giving rise to a literature seeking to offer explanations. What is less well documented is how those at the intersection of income and other inequalities have fared in relation to key capabilities over this period and why. This is what this project sets out to explore.