Featured Publications

Collins M, Lundstedt J (2024) The Effects of More Informative Grading on Student Outcomes. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 218, 514-549.

More granular grading scales provide a more accurate assessment of achievement and thus provide students with more informative feedback on their performance. Using Swedish administrative data and exploiting a natural experiment, we identify the effects of moving from a system with three passing grades to one with five passing grades. Students receiving more informative grades are less likely to graduate from high school, from academic high school tracks, and from STEM and art high school tracks. Affected students are also less likely to enrol in STEM courses at university. The evidence suggests discouragement as a likely mechanism, with students revising their self-belief downward when receiving more informative feedback. Link to Full Paper

Henry E, Cullinan J (2024) Addressing the Distributional Consequences of Spillovers in Health Economic Evaluation: A Prioritarian Approach. Health Economics, DOI: 10.1002/hec.4796.

Health spillovers arise when an individual’s serious illness affects those close to them emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically. As a result, healthcare interventions that improve the lives of patients may also confer wider health benefits. However, contrary to widespread calls for health spillovers to be included in health economic evaluation, others have argued this could have adverse distributional consequences and equity implications. This paper presents a novel approach to spillover inclusion in health economic evaluation using a ‘prioritarian transformation’ of health gains that allows these equity concerns to be addressed. Affording greater weight to the incremental change in patient outcomes when incorporating carer/family health spillovers into resource allocation decisions, the method provides a feasible means of moderating the distributional impact of spillover inclusion. It also introduces a normative, theoretical perspective to a largely empirical extant literature and, as such, its axiomatic basis is examined. Finally, an illustrative example of the approach is presented to demonstrate its application. Link to Full Paper

McHale J, Harold J, Mei J-C, Sasidharan A, Yadav A (2023) Stars as Catalysts: An Event-Study Analysis of the Impact of Star-Scientist Recruitment on Local Research Performance in a Small Open Economy. Journal of Economic Geography, 23, 343-369.

There is increasing interest among policymakers in small open economies in the use of star-scientist recruitment policies to catalyse the development of local clusters in targeted research areas. We use Scopus to assemble a dataset on over 1.4 million publications and subsequent citations for Denmark, Ireland and New Zealand from 1990 to 2017. An event-study model is used to estimate the dynamic effects of a star arrival on quality-adjusted research output at both the department and matched individual incumbent levels. Star arrivals are associated with statistically significant increases in department output (excluding the output of the star) of between 12% and 25% after 4 years. At the incumbent level, star arrivals lead to an approximately 5% increase in individual output, with substantially larger increases for incumbents who co-author with the star. Link to Full Paper

McGowan F, Denny E, Lunn P (2023) Looking Beyond Time Preference: Testing Potential Causes of Low Willingness to Pay for Fuel Economy Improvements. Energy and Resource Economics, 75: 101404.

Time preferences are considered a leading cause of the energy efficiency gap. We test two cognition-based mechanisms (concentration bias and underestimation bias) which are distinct from time preferences but can produce identical behaviour when costs are paid upfront and benefits are spread over time. We use an experiment that measures willingness-to-pay for an improvement in fuel economy to test the explanatory power of these mechanisms. The sample is large, nationally representative and comprised only of car buyers (n = 2368). The experiment varies between-subjects (i) the payment schedule for the fuel economy improvement, and (ii) the temporal framing of its monetary benefit. We combine the payment schedules and the benefit frames so that the pattern of results predicted by time preferences differs from the pattern predicted by cognitive mechanisms. Results support the preregistered hypotheses: willingness-to-pay increases as the payment schedule becomes more dispersed across time and decreases when the benefit is presented as more disaggregated (i.e. a monthly saving instead of annual or multi-year saving). The findings are consistent with the predictions of the two cognitive mechanisms, which may explain part of the energy-efficiency gap currently attributed to pure time preference. Link to Full Paper

Henry E, Al-Janabi H, Brouwer W, et al. (2023) Recommendations for Emerging Good Practice and Future Research in Relation to Family and Caregiver Health Spillovers in Health Economic Evaluations: A Report of the SHEER Task Force. PharmacoEconomics, DOI: 10.1007/s40273-023-01321-3.

Omission of family and caregiver health spillovers from the economic evaluation of healthcare interventions remains common practice. When reported, a high degree of methodological inconsistency in incorporating spillovers has been observed. To promote emerging good practice, this paper from the Spillovers in Health Economic Evaluation and Research (SHEER) task force aims to provide guidance on the incorporation of family and caregiver health spillovers in cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analysis. SHEER also seeks to inform the basis for a spillover research agenda and future practice. A modified nominal group technique was used to reach consensus on a set of recommendations, representative of the views of participating subject-matter experts. Through the structured discussions of the group, as well as on the basis of evidence identified during a review process, recommendations were proposed and voted upon, with voting being held over two rounds. This report describes 11 consensus recommendations for emerging good practice. SHEER advocates for the incorporation of health spillovers into analyses conducted from a healthcare/health payer perspective, and more generally inclusive perspectives such as a societal perspective. Where possible, spillovers related to displaced/foregone activities should be considered, as should the distributional consequences of inclusion. Time horizons ought to be sufficient to capture all relevant impacts. Currently, the collection of primary spillover data is preferred and clear justification should be provided when using secondary data. Transparency and consistency when reporting on the incorporation of health spillovers are crucial. In addition, given that the evidence base relating to health spillovers remains limited and requires much development, 12 avenues for future research are proposed. Consideration of health spillovers in economic evaluations has been called for by researchers and policymakers alike. Accordingly, it is hoped that the consensus recommendations of SHEER will motivate more widespread incorporation of health spillovers into analyses. The developing nature of spillover research necessitates that this guidance be viewed as an initial roadmap, rather than a strict checklist. Moreover, there is a need for balance between consistency in approach, where valuable in a decision making context, and variation in application, to reflect differing decision maker perspectives and to support innovation. Link to Full Paper

Gibney G, McDermott T, Cullinan J (2023) Temperature, Morbidity and Behaviour in Milder Climates. Economic Modelling, 118, 106106.

Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in extreme weather events and several studies have considered the effects of temperature on human health, especially in countries with hotter climates. We extended this literature by modeling the relationship between temperature and morbidity in a country with a temperate maritime climate, and by considering the role of behavioral responses. Using weekly data on accident and emergency (A&E) attendances at 429 hospitals across England from 2010 to 2015, we found that while cold weather was associated with an initial reduction in A&E attendances, it appears to be a result of postponements to subsequent weeks. However, for hotter temperatures, we found substantial increases in overall attendances, which were not offset by subsequent reductions. Our results show clear effects of temperature on morbidity, even in relatively milder climates, with implications for future healthcare demand and the overall cost of climate change. Link to Full Paper 

Castells-Quintana D, del Pilar Lopez-Uribe M, McDermott T (2022) Population Displacement and Urban Conflict: Global Evidence from More than 3300 Flood Events, Journal of Development Economics, 158, 102922.

In this paper, we study the effect of displacement of population into cities on urban conflict in developing countries. To do so, we construct a novel measure of exposure to floods, using data on more than 3300 flood events worldwide, as an exogenous source of population displacement. We combine this with city level observations of thousands of urban social disorder events over the period 1985–2015. Exposure to floods is found to be associated with higher intensity of urban social disorder. Our evidence suggests that the effects of floods on urban disorder occur in part through the displacement of population into large cities. Exploring the information on urban disorder events in more detail, we find that the association between city growth and urban disorder is strongest for events related to public service provision, prices and wages. Link to Full Paper

Moran P, Cullinan J (2022) Is Mammography Screening an Effective Public Health Intervention? Evidence from a Natural Experiment. Social Science & Medicine, 305, 115073.

Population-based breast screening programmes aim to improve clinical outcomes, alleviate health inequalities, and reduce healthcare costs. However, while screening can bring about immediate changes in mode of presentation and stage at diagnosis of breast cancer cases, the benefits and harms of these programmes can only be observed at a population level, and only over a long enough timeframe for the cascade of events triggered by screening to culminate in disease-specific mortality reductions. In this paper we exploit a natural experiment resulting from the phased geographic rollout of a national mammography screening programme to examine the impact of screening on breast cancer outcomes from both a patient cohort and a population perspective. Using data on 33,722 breast cancer cases over the period 1994–2011, we employ a difference-in-differences research design using ten-year follow-up data for cases diagnosed before and after the introduction of the programme in screened and unscreened regions. We conclude that although the programme produced the intended intermediate effects on breast cancer presentation and incidence, these failed to translate into significant decreases in overall population-level mortality, though screening may have helped to reduce socioeconomic disparities in late stage breast cancer incidence. Link to Full Paper 

McDermott T (2022) Global Exposure to Flood Risk and Poverty, Nature Communications, 13: 3529.

Flooding is a pervasive natural hazard, with new research demonstrating that more than one in five people around the world live in areas directly exposed to 1-in-100 year flood risk. Exposure to such flood risk is particularly concentrated amongst lower income households worldwide. Link to Full Paper

Masterson S, Teljeur C, Cullinan J (2022) Are There Socioeconomic Disparities in Geographic Accessibility to Community First Responders to Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest in Ireland? SSM – Population Health, 19, 101151.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is a leading cause of death worldwide. Without appropriate early resuscitation interventions, the prospect of survival is limited. This means that an effective community response is a critical enabler of increasing the number of people who survive. However, while OHCA incidence is higher in more deprived areas, propensity to volunteer is, in general, associated with higher socioeconomic status. In this context, we consider whether there are socioeconomic disparities in geographic accessibility to volunteer community first responders (CFRs) in Ireland, where CFR groups have developed organically and communities self-select to participate. We use geographic information systems and propensity score matching to generate a set of control areas with which to compare established CFR catchment areas. Differences between CFRs and controls in terms of the distribution of catchment deprivation and social fragmentation scores are assessed using two-sided Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests. Overall we find that while CFR schemes are centred in more deprived and socially fragmented areas, beyond a catchment of 4 min there is no evidence of differences in area-level deprivation or social fragmentation. Our findings show that self-selection as a model of CFR recruitment does not lead to more deprived areas being disadvantaged in terms of access to CFR schemes. This means that community-led health interventions can develop to the benefit of community members across the socioeconomic spectrum and may be relevant for other countries and jurisdictions looking to support similar models within communities. Link to Full Paper

Cullinan J, Flannery, Palcic D (2022) Study Abroad Programme Participation and Subsequent Academic Performance: Evidence from Administrative Data. Education Economics, 30, 251-269.

There is increasing attention on study abroad programmes in higher education. However, there is little evidence on how participation might impact students’ academic performance on return. Using administrative data from Ireland and a range of regression models and matching estimators, we find no independent association between study abroad and subsequent academic performance on average. However, we do find some evidence of heterogeneity in the relationship, notably across the performance distribution and for language students. In particular, study abroad is independently associated with better (worse) performance for higher (lower) performing students and in language subjects. Link to Full Paper

Castells-Quintana, Krause DM, McDermott TKJ (2021) The Urbanising Force of Global Warming: The Role of Climate Change in the Spatial Distribution of Population, Journal of Economic Geography, 21, 531–556.

In this paper we combine high-resolution data on climate and population to establish a global non-linear effect of climate on urbanisation. In particular, we show that deteriorating climatic conditions are associated with more urbanisation in a global panel. At the city level, climate-driven growth seems to foster fragmentation, suggesting that as people arrive in large cities they are likely to settle on the urban fringe or in informal settlements. Link to Full Paper

Cullinan J, Denny K, Flannery D (2021) A Distributional Analysis of Upper Secondary School Performance, Empirical Economics, 60, 1085-1113.

This paper examines the relationship between the distribution of upper secondary school performance and a range of individual and school-level characteristics using unconditional quantile regression methods. It finds that determinants such as parental occupation group, maternal unemployment, extra private tuition and working part-time have differential effects for low- and high-ability students and that important insights are lost by focussing on the conditional mean. Link to Full Paper

Harold J, Bertsch V, Lawrence T, Hall M (2021) Drivers of People's Preferences for Spatial Proximity to Energy Infrastructure Technologies: A Cross-country Analysis, The Energy Journal, 42, 4. 

This study examines the factors influencing people's proximity preferences to a range of different energy technologies using a cross-country econometric analysis of the stated preference data from an unprecedented survey conducted on nationally representative samples of the population in Ireland, the U.S. and Germany. The results show that, in general, German and Irish citizens are willing to accept energy infrastructures at smaller distances to their homes than their U.S. counterparts. Moreover, attitudinal factors are found to shape people's preferences more consistently than any of the socio-demographic characteristics. Link to Full Paper

Harold J, Cullinan J, Lyons S (2020) Consumer Switching in European Retail Markets, Oxford Economic Papers, 72, 453-471.

This paper examines the factors influencing consumer switching across 14 different retail markets in 27 European countries (EU27) using a micro-econometric analysis of consumer switching behaviour data from the European Commission’s Consumer Market Monitoring Survey. The results provide evidence that consumer attitudes to various market components are highly significant factors in explaining consumer switching behaviour in the EU27. Link to Full Paper

Kocornik-Mina A, McDermott TKJ, Michaels G, Rauch F (2020) Flooded Cities, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 12, 35-66.

In this paper we examine how prevalent it is for economic activity to be concentrated in flood-prone areas and whether cities adapt to major floods by relocating economic activity to safer areas. We combine spatially disaggregated inundation maps and night lights data spanning the globe’s cities. We find that local recovery from large-scale floods is relatively quick, with little evidence of a relocation away from flood prone areas. Link to Full Paper