What areas of inequality does your research focus on?
I have an academic background in both economics and political science, so am particularly interested in research questions on inequality that bridge the two disciplines.
In the long period of reduced economic volatility prior the global financial crisis, patterns of economic growth were very different across the advanced economies. High value added services, such as finance and business services, expanded rapidly in the UK and the US, whereas the export of manufactured goods underpinned growth in Germany. Little is presently known about the role that wage inequality played in the divergent growth patterns. My current research aims to fill this gap by empirically investigating the relationship between wage inequality and economic growth at the sector level. This project also hopes to shed new light on the open question of whether income inequality helps or hinders economic growth.
The Western economies are in the midst of a period of major political upheaval, as exemplified by Brexit, Trump, and the continued rise of far-right populist parties across Europe. Politics seems more divided than at any time in recent memory. Cleavages have widened between big cities and elsewhere, between the young and old, and between the university educated and the non-university educated. I believe that long-term structural economic trends, such as technological change and deindustrialization, have contributed to the emergence of these political cleavages by increasing inequality, especially inequality between different geographical areas. My next project aims to rigorously test this hypothesis by using local-level data to estimate the effect of these structural trends on voting behaviour and political preferences.
What do you enjoy most about working in the III?
The International Inequalities Institute is a vibrant and exciting place to work. As an explicitly interdisciplinary institute, there is a real plurality of views, expertise and research methodologies in the office, which helps us all do better research and gives the place a real intellectual buzz.
Academic research can all too often feel detached from the outside world. The III makes a real effort to engage beyond academic circles. In fact, this month we have our Annual Conference, which will bring together our international network of scholars, practitioners and policymakers. We also have a fantastic set of MSc students and PhDs. Our students are from a diverse range of countries and backgrounds and many have worked in the field to try and alleviate harmful inequalities. It is a major perk of the III to get the opportunity to work with such engaged and enthusiastic students. I have no doubt many of them will go on to make important contributions to academia, campaigning, policymaking, business, and the third sector.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Like many young researchers, I hope to one day be a Professor at a top tier university. In ten years’ time, I would like to be well along that journey, with a body of work that has helped advance our understanding of the political economy of inequality.
I have always admired economists who are able to bring the insights of frontier research to a wider audience such as Stiglitz, Krugman, Atkinson and Piketty. Later in my career, I would like to follow in the footsteps of these heavyweights by writing books that can be widely read and are powerful enough to change the public debate and shape government policy.
David Hope is a Research Officer in Inequalities.