Policy Presentations

Experimental Evidence on the Early Effectiveness of Intervention in Childhood

Orla Doyle (UCD School of Economics and UCD Geary Institute)


An increasing body of evidence finds that targeted, early interventions aimed at at-risk children and their families can reduce socioeconomic inequalities in children’s skills and capabilities. This paper describes a randomised control trial (RCT) evaluation of a five-year preventative programme which aims to improve the school readiness skills of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. The Preparing for Life (PFL) programme is one of the first studies in Ireland to use random assignment to experimentally modify the environment of high risk families and track its impact over time. This paper describes the early impact of the programme on parent and child outcomes at birth, and when the infants at six months and twelve months old. Using the methodology of Heckman et al. (2010a), permutation testing methods and a stepdown procedure are applied to account for the small sample size and the increased likelihood of false discoveries when examining multiple outcomes. The results show that the programme impact is concentrated on parental behaviors and the home environment, with little impact on child development at this early stage. This indicates that home visiting programmes can be effective at offsetting deficits in parenting skills within a relatively short timeframe, yet continued investment may be required to observe direct effects on child development.



The Politics of Austerity Budgets

Niamh Hardiman (UCD School of Politics and International Relations and UCD Geary Institute)


Across Europe, governments are committed to implementing fiscal consolidation measures, in order to bring down the budget deficits that emerged in the context of the international financial crisis. There is a conventional wisdom about when and how this ought to be undertaken, and what best contributed to successful outcomes, drawn from an established economics literature. But while we have much to learn from this literature, it is curiously blind to the role of politics in shaping the scope of political choice, and the importance of politics in explaining policy implementation and outcome. This presentation draws on work in progress on the comparative politics of fiscal response to crisis, looking here at some features of the experiences of Ireland and Spain.


Activation in Ireland: Are we on the Right Path?

Elish Kelly (ESRI), Seamus McGuinness (ESRI), Philip O’Connell (UCD Geary Institute)


We use new data to examine the nature and rates of labour market transitions among the unemployed in 2006 and 2011. The data are from the Quarterly National Household Survey Longitudinal Data-set released recently by the CSO. We compare two balanced panels: Pre-Recession, Q2 2006 – Q2 2007; and Recession, Q2 2011- Q2 2012.

The paper finds that:

  • The proportion of respondents remaining unemployed for at least 12 months has increased from 21% in 2006 to 49% in 2011.
  • Consequently the proportion entering employment has fallen from 34% to 20%
  • Unemployment duration is the main driver of prolonged unemployment
    • The longer a person remains unemployed, the less likely he/she is to leave
  • Education has become a less important factor in determining exit to employment

The paper argues that:

  • Reducing long-term unemployment should be key objective of labour market policy
  • Current policy, Pathways to Work, has many positive features, however there are issues:
    • Of pace of reform, coverage of activation, system capacity
    • Of Over reliance on ALMPs with weak links to labour market
      • 1/3rd of expenditure in ineffective direct employment schemes (e.g. CE)
  • There is a need to 
    • Align ALMPs with skills needs of employers and training needs of unemployed 
    • Evaluate impact of 2nd chance education
    • Implement a rigorous  independent evaluation regime