Research in Economics

Explore the findings of academics in the Department of Economics, based within the Business School.

Our focus

Our department enjoys an international reputation for its predominantly applied research.

The department promotes an active research environment which fosters collaborative research within the University and externally, directly influencing and informing policy-making organisations throughout the world. See our Impact and Influence case studies and External Policy Work pages.

Our lively research environment is also built around the department's Working Paper Seriesweekly departmental seminars, regular internal workshops, annual PhD conference and weekly PhD advanced economics reading groups.

Our academics are dedicated to producing world-leading work with a particular focus on six key subject areas, each with its own sub-fields of research and specialist knowledge to benefit students, researchers and practitioners.

Research subject areas

  • Environment and Energy

    The Environment and Energy cluster studies the effect of natural resources on the economy. This includes the desirability of the policy of economic diversification, the value of environmental amenities, socioeconomic impacts of climate change and energy related foreign aid. We also evaluate and design architectures for international and national climate policies.

    Our research covers a range of topics. We:

    • study the effect of resources, such as oil and water, on economic growth, the structure of economy, the distribution of income, and international trade
    • develop new methods and apply existing ones to assess the value of environmental amenities, including via impacts on individuals' subjective wellbeing
    • investigate the impacts of climate change and greenhouse gas emission reduction, and evaluate and design architectures for international and national climate policies.


  • International Trade

    We have a long-standing tradition of research in international trade and trade policy, which has been a Sussex speciality for over forty years. Our research addresses important questions about the drivers and effects of international trade in goods and services, as well as the design and implications of trade policy, regional integration and the world trading system, and of course the challenges and implications of an independent trade policy for the UK.  The rise in geo-political tensions, the vulnerability of supply chains, the importance of addressing climate change, and the consequence for the UK from leaving the EU highlight the importance of work on trade and trade policy for the UK and beyond.

    Our ongoing research includes policy-focused state-of-the art empirical work as well as contributions to theory and data. We engage extensively with governments (especially in the UK), international organisations and stakeholders. Our aim is for the work to inform trade policy and shed light on wider issues relating to poverty, development, migration, and productivity, as well as the boundaries of the firm and engagement in value chains. 

    Research Centres

    Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy

    The Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy (CITP) is an ESRC-funded centre of excellence for innovative trade policy research. Launched in April 2022, it provides robust research evidence to support decision-making in trade policy. The Centre is concerned with trade policy that is inclusive – both in terms of who makes and decides upon trade policy, but also concerning the consequences of trade policy, for which we focus on four dimensions of inclusiveness: geography, political domains, society and generations.

    Led by Sussex Economics Professors L. Alan Winters and Michael Gasiorek, the CITP brings together expertise in economics, law, business management, politics and international relations, from all four nations of the UK –the University of Nottingham, the University of Strathclyde, Queen’s University Belfast, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge – as well as from several overseas universities.

    The Centre builds on the work of and includes the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

    The UK Trade Policy Observatory

    The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) is an interdisciplinary independent expert group of researchers at the University of Sussex covering all aspects of trade and is probably the country’s largest collection of academic expertise on the world trading system, with specialists in economics, law, business and management and political economy. The UKTPO is one of the University's Centres of Excellence, a research centre which drives change through innovative and transformative research on international trade and trade policy.

    When the UK voted to leave the EU, it also voted to take control over UK trade policy. The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) was created in June 2016 immediately after the referendum vote, to ensure that new trade policies were constructed in a manner that addressed the complexities of the world trading system and benefitted all stakeholders in society. The UKTPO aims to bring objective and independent analysis to trade policy debates and policymaking processes and is committed to ensuring that the UK’s international trading environment benefits all and is fair to Britain, the EU and the world.

    Our current work is wide-ranging and includes:

    • The challenges of using trade policy to mitigate the effects of climate change
    • The impact on UK trade and investment arising from leaving the European Union
    • Collaborative work with the World Bank focussed on the construction of the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index, which describes and quantifies global patterns of barriers to services trade.
    • Citizen’s Juries aimed at understanding better the choices and trade-offs that non-specialists would make when faced with trade policy options
    • Supply chain resilience
    • Using firm-level data to understand better the ways in which businesses engage in trade and how this may impact on their productivity

    Impact and Engagement

    Our trade policy team is distinct in offering deep knowledge of, and solutions to, real-world global policy challenges in trade policy. Our work is frequently cited in the media, where we are often asked for commentary on developments in trade and trade policy. Our researchers are involved in extensive public policy engagement activities and work collaboratively with public policymakers and societal stakeholders from a range of organisations, from government departments and devolved administrations to business and the third sector. We also provide training on trade to policy actors and practitioners. 

    Our team have a proven track record of high-quality and exceptional research, with a strong policy dimension. Building on that expertise, since its inception, the team has demonstrated the capacity to undertake highly innovative and transformative research that leads to significant advancement of capabilities and knowledge.  Significant contributions are in the analysis of supply chains, trade data, the analysis of trade policy options for the UK (mainly but not exclusively with the EU), the World Trade Organization and aspects of sustainability.

    Impact Case study: Shaping UK trade policy after Brexit

    The UK Trade Policy Observatory has provided immediate authoritative research and analysis to help reconfigure UK trade policy, informing many approaches to post-Brexit trade policy by central government and devolved administrations across the UK.

    Read more

    Services trade and Brexit

    Economic Sovereignty? Who makes the rules?


    Ruby Acquah - Research Fellow in the Economics of Trade

    Ingo Borchert – Reader in Economics

    Michael Gasiorek – Professor of Economics

    Bridget Kauma - Lecturer in Economics

    Minako Morita-Jaeger - Senior Research Fellow in International Trade

    Ioannis PapadakisResearch Fellow in the Economics of Digitalization and Trade

    Barry ReillyProfessor of Econometrics

    Eirini Thomaidou - Research Fellow in the Economics of Trade Policy

    Richard Tol – Professor of Economics

    Manuel Tong Koecklin - Research Fellow in the Economics of Trade

    Mattia di UbaldoResearch Fellow Economics of European Trade Policies

    L Alan Winters – Professor of Economics

    Dongzhe Zhang - Research Fellow in the Economics of Trade Policy

  • Poverty and Development

    We conduct research into all aspects of poverty, inequality and economic development in both developing and developed countries.

    Sussex enjoys a worldwide reputation for its work on the analysis of poverty, inequality and economic development.

    Research in this field has been an integral part of our department since the establishment of the University of Sussex.

    Michael Lipton, a pioneer of development studies at Sussex, set up the Poverty Research Unit in 1995 (now the Centre for Poverty and Inequality Research).

    The main areas of our research are:

    • trade and development
    • agriculture and rural development
    • the measurement of poverty and inequality
    • the role of redistribution in poverty reduction
    • climate, climate change, climate policy and economic development
    • demography, land distribution and development in Sub Saharan Africa
    • nutrition, health, poverty, institutions and economic development under colonial rule in Africa
    • causes of the rise of living standards of the poor in 20th century Europe with a focus on UK in the areas of water, sanitation, infant mortality and fertility and nutrition distributions.

    We are also undertaking ongoing research on the impacts of migration on economic development:

    • assessing the social and economic impacts of migration on the migrants and their sending communities, especially the effects of remittances
    • labour mobility across borders and its impacts on labour market in the receiving countries
    • labour markets segregation on racial and religious lines
    • relations between trade, FDI and migration.


  • Labour, Education and Health

    Our research looks at issues in both developed and developing countries such as wage levels and distribution, NHS reforms, the impact of malaria control on infant mortality, labour supply and markets, school performance assessments, and the evaluation of policies aimed at boosting maternal and child health.

    The main research areas include:

    • minimum wage effects
    • wage distribution, rigidity and settlement
    • spatial structure of wage
    • inequality and poverty in the UK
    • labour supply and working hours restriction
    • impact of gender, ethnicity and informal sector activities on labour market in developing countries
    • rate of return to education
    • school performance and teachers pay
    • performance evaluation
    • pupil mobility, school segregation and peer effects
    • schooling and education in emerging and developing countries
    • teachers' contracts in India.

    The vigorous and robust research work by Sussex economists on minimum wage has been adopted by the Low Pay Commission recommendation to UK government; the work on higher education has been cited as part of written evidence to the Parliament Select Committees, highlighted in the UK Department for Employment and Learning ‘Research Review’, quoted by the Russell Group and Sutton Trust Report and by many national newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

    Ofsted ratings influence house prices

    Minimum wages help raise the pay of low wage workers

    The economics of education


  • Economic Theory, Behaviour and Experiments

    We combine tools and techniques from microeconomic theory, game theory, behavioural economics and experimental economics to address more fundamental questions about the behaviour of economic agents, and how such behaviour should be modelled by economists.

    Current areas of expertise include:

    • behavioural decision theory—that is, developing formal models of the behaviour of agents who fail the classic assumptions of full rationality
    • revealed preference analysis – that is, developing formal methods for eliciting preferences of individuals from their observed choices, and making predictions
    • bounded rationality and unawareness
    • game theory and interactive decision-making, including bargaining and negotiations, repeated games and long-run relationships, risk-taking contest
    • experimental macroeconomics and finance
    • family economics and intra-household allocation
    • the economics of subjective wellbeing.

    Many of our researchers are involved in empirically evaluating and informing theory using a broad spectrum of approaches, with both experimental and observational data. We have also developed interdisciplinary links, in particular with researchers from Psychology as well as other disciplines within the Business School.

    University of Sussex Experimental Economics Lab

    The research cluster also includes the University of Sussex Experimental Economics Lab (USEElab), an interdisciplinary group of researchers conducting behavioural experiments. The lab maintains an online recruitment system that helps researchers organise and manage behavioural experiments, and simplify signing up and participating in sessions.

    If you would like to participate in our cutting-edge research and get paid for your time, please register for our participant database. You'll receive invitations to participate in our experiments.

    When rationality doesn’t prevail

    Current and recently completed research projects, with a variety of collaborators, include:

    Fever pitch: Are footbal fans irrational?


  • Quantitative Economic History

    Quantitative Economic History asks deep questions about living standards, economic development, productivity growth, distribution of income and wealth, evolution of labour market, and the economic use of natural resources. In particular, it blends history, economics, politics, and quantitative methods to address the following fundamental questions in economic sciences:

    • What factors explain the divergence in living standards across countries?

    • What are the drivers of long run prosperity and wellbeing within a country?

    • What factors influence economic fairness, distributional justice, and inclusion over time?

    • What ensures internal and external stability of economic systems?

    Through studying these questions, quantitative economic history aims to attain an improved understanding of the impact of social and economic policies, and the evolution of living standards and human well-being over the very long run.

    Quantitative Economic History research involves unearthing and digitising archive records; such as household surveys and military records, and developing sophisticated ways of measuring social indicators and establishing causality in non-experimental data. The analysis of these large data sets helps to clarify what happened over years of socio-economic development, what impact policy decisions had, and whether this was causal or incidental.

    The economic history group has a very strong track record in research on living standards, productivity growth, income distribution, nutrition, health, housing, child labour, and human development. A project investigating British Living Standards 1900-1960 developed an open access online resource devoted to the study of British living standards and household expenditures during the first half of the twentieth century. The team is now extending this project to analyse living standards and income inequality around the world 1860-1960.

    The quantitative economic history group mostly focuses on the period post-1850. Research projects include:


External Policy Work

Our faculty are driven by a desire to address critical global issues in economics in a way that will improve people’s lives – often the lives of the poorest. In order to effect change,  members of faculty work with external organisations, providing expert knowledge and rigorous analysis to help inform policy development and implementation. Here are a few examples of how research directly informs policy and practice.

  • Informing the National Minimum Wage

    Professor Richard Dickens, Professor of Economics, is a leading academic on labour markets and the minimum wage.

    His research has directly informed the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission, on the rate at which the National Minimum Wage is set; on the associated regulations; and on the Commission’s evaluation of the economic impact of the National Minimum Wage.

    In particular, in 2010, as a result of research conducted by Prof Dickens and others, the age of eligibility for the National Minimum Wage was lowered from 22 to 21 years, leading to 55,000 young British workers benefiting directly from a 20 per cent increase in wages.

    See more: Improving the labour market experience for low-paid workers in Britain

    In 2014 Prof Dickens was appointed as an independent member of the UK’s Low Pay Commission for a three-year term.

    The Low Pay Commission makes recommendations to the Government on the level at which to set the National Minimum Wage.

    As a commissioner, Professor Dickens is involved in:

    • Monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the impact of the National Minimum Wage on pay,
    • Employment and competitiveness in low paying sectors and small firms; the effect on different groups of workers,
    • The effect on pay structures,
    • The interaction between the National Minimum Wage and the tax and benefit systems.  

    The Commission reports to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, and consists of a Chair and eight other members. Three of the Commissioners have an employee/trade union background, 3 have an employer background and 3 are independent/academic labour relations specialists.

    In July 2015, Professor Dickens provided information on the UK’s experience in addressing wage inequality, as well as the modalities of introducing a national minimum wage at a conference organized by the government of South Africa, which is exploring whether to introduce a minimum wage so as to address the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. 

  • Advising Ofsted on their inspection methodology

    Dr Iftikhar Hussain, is one of very few economists to study the impact of Ofsted.

    His research, involving applying econometric techniques to understand cause and effect within the education system, has provided some of the first hard empirical evidence on how Ofsted shapes behaviour and affects the education market.

    In October 2015, Dr Hussain became a member of a new expert panel advising Ofsted on their inspection methodology. Ofsted had recently introduced a change to the way they inspect maintained schools, academies and further education and skills providers. Schools and providers that were judged good at their most recent inspection will now receive a short inspection approximately every three years instead of a full inspection approximately every five or six years.

    The expert panel was established to help understand which elements of the new approach drive consistency and reliability, in order to improve their inspection practice and ensure the reliability of their assessments. 

    In three separate studies Dr Hussain has documented how school performance responds to the punitive elements of the regime, as well as investigating the impact of disclosure of Ofsted inspection ratings on parents' school choice decisions as well as on house prices.

    As a member of the panel, he will help to scrutinize and inform the choice of methodology to test the new short inspection approach, and analyse the findings of the tests as they take place. 

    Further reading

    Hussain, Iftikar (2015) Subjective performance evaluation in the public sector: evidence from school inspections. Journal of Human Resources, 50 (1). pp. 189-221. ISSN 0022-166X

    The School Inspector Calls, Education Next, Summer 2013.

  • Enabling industry to navigate trade policy changes as a result of Brexit

    The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO), in collaboration with EURIS, one of the largest trade associations in the UK, has enabled a large number of high-value manufacturers to commence informed engagement with trade policy to try to ensure that they get the best deal from Brexit. The collaboration has informed firms, enabling them to lobby government for trade agreements that have the most positive/least negative impact on income and jobs in the post-Brexit era.

    Led by Professor L. Alan Winters, the UKTPO, a partnership between the University of Sussex and Chatham House, draws together the largest group of academic expertise on the world trading system, with specialists in economics, law, international relations, business and management. EURIS is a trade association of sophisticated manufacturers with a turnover of around £100 billion. EURIS represents sectors with a turnover of over £148 billion and with 1.1 million employees comprising 13 trade associations. EURIS covers sectors responsible for over 25% of total UK goods imports and exports.

    In 2018, EURIS approached the UKTPO for advice about identifying, quantifying and responding to the likely impacts of the changing trade and regulatory relationship between the UK and EU. Brexit will potentially induce a huge change in the conditions under which all companies operating in the UK do business, and EURIS was keen to interact with the Government on these policy areas to minimise the risks and maximise the opportunities for its members.

    The UKTPO worked with EURIS to provide EURIS member companies with unique insights into different Brexit scenarios and to equip them to advise the Government on trade negotiations with the EU and others. In particular, UKTPO formulated and executed a major survey of EURIS members in order to understand and communicate the major issues they faced with Brexit – see below.  The project also involved research and analysis of various key issues surrounding UK/EU trade, including Rules of Origin (ROOs), customs procedures, regulations and mutual recognition agreements. 

    Achieving impact

    In July 2018, the collaboration led to 150 industry leaders writing to the Prime Minister to express concern over a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario. The signatories stated that such an outcome would cause severe disruption and lead to severe economic damage to the UK. The letter called on the Government to secure a trade deal with the EU and avoid a ‘no deal’ scenario.

    In September 2018, the collaboration produced a report – Securing a competitive UK manufacturing industry post Brexit - on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the industrial product supply sector, stemming from a survey designed and analysed by UKTPO. The survey revealed that four out of five manufacturers in industrial product supply sector want continued regulatory alignment with the EU. The report also found that four in ten companies would face a skills shortage without EU workers, while 1/3 had already seen a fall in investment due to Brexit. The report was launched in London and has been reported in the Independent. EURIS continues to publicly lobby the Government against a no-deal Brexit as this would put at risk the industry product supply industry's £148bn contribution to the UK economy.

    Future impact

    It is early stages to fully quantify the immediate or long-term impact of the overall collaboration with EURIS, but the aim is to strategically support EURIS member companies in preparation for different Brexit scenarios, with outputs informing and guiding particular UK policy decisions around Brexit. This will facilitate an industry negotiating position that is significantly better informed as to how various aspects of Brexit may impact upon it. Industry will be equipped with an evidence base and a hierarchy of needs to enable it to engage effectively with the government to inform and improve UK negotiating positions. This is true whether the approach that the government finally chooses is via the Withdrawal Agreement and subsequent negotiations based on the political declaration or a ‘no deal’ Brexit in which UK industry will still push hard for agreements with the EU and other trading partners.  


    This research was supported by EURIS and the ESRC IAA Social Science Impact Fund.

  • Reviewing police pay

    Professor Disney has directly influenced several public sector pay reviews, helping staff in the NHS and police obtain a fair wage.

    In mid 2015, the UK government announced that the system used to decide how much money police forces receive would be replaced. The aim is to change the current method, the police allocation formula – which is nearly 10 years old, with a simplified version that will take into account factors such as the size of an area’s population. 

    consultation process was launched involving Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables among others, followed by a peer review to which the Home Office appointed Professor Richard Disney as Reviewer. Professor Disney was one of two academics appointed as reviewers. The reviewers were tasked with assessing the performance of the existing method of allocating police funding and the methodology used in the revision of the formula. 

    In November 2015, the review process was paused for a year after it was suggested that Home Office officials had made errors in computing the funding allocations for police force areas based on the new formula. Nevertheless, it is likely that the new formula will be implemented in due course.

    In the UK, pay negotiations in the public sector are largely undertaken by pay review bodies.  These bodies, which are staffed by individuals from outside government recruited through a competitive process, cover over 2.5 million public servants, including the armed services, NHS staff, doctors and dentists and, since 2014, the police. After considering evidence from the relevant parties, the Review Body makes independent recommendations on pay. It is generally expected that the Government will implement the recommendations and thereby avoid industrial action by the public servants. Professor Disney sat on the NHS Pay Review Body 2005-10 and on the Senior Salaries Pay Review Body 2011-14.

    Professor Disney was also previously one of two external advisors to Sir Thomas Winsor's Review of Pay and Conditions for the Police Service in England and Wales, which reported in 2011 and 2012. In fact, the establishment of the police pay review body was a direct consequence of the recommendations of this Review.

    The second report made a large number of recommendations directly to the Home Secretary, almost all of which were initially accepted by the Home Secretary and ultimately achieved by the arbitration process.  This was the first major reform of police service pay and conditions for over thirty years or more.

    Further reading

    Rowena Crawford and Richard Disney (2014) The Reform of police pensions in England and Wales, Journal of Public Economics Vol 116.

    Rowena Crawford and Richard Disney (2015) Wage regulation and the quality of police officer recruits, Institute for Fiscal Studies Working Paper W15/19, London.

    Rowena Crawford, Richard Disney and David Innes (2015) Funding the English and Welsh police service: from boom to bust? Institute for Fiscal Studies Briefing Note BN179, London.

  • UK aid for trade and wider policy influence

    Professor L. Alan Winters was consulted on the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) review of aid for trade, June 2023.

    The review assessed to what extent UK aid funded programmes address binding constraints to trade and promote poverty reduction and inclusion. It made five recommendations for the government.

    Members of our department have had wider policy influence on key poverty stakeholders including the World Bank, African Economic Research Consortium, and UK FCDO.

    Further reading

    UK aid for trade

Working Paper Series

See recent research output by the members of our department as well as colleagues outside the University.

Explore the Working Paper Series.

Research Seminars

The Department of Economics regularly hosts research seminars delivered by internal and external speakers. See Business School Research Events for more details.

Latest publications

These are the five most recent publications added to Sussex Research Online (SRO).

See the full list for the current calendar year.

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