Economy, Society, and Public Policy - new units launched

19 June 2018

The CORE project has launched beta versions of the next four units of the Economy, Society and Public Policy (ESPP) e-book, which have been funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

The CORE Project is an open-access economics reform initiative, based at University College London. Its signature online course uses real-world data to teach topics such as inequality, unemployment and the environment that are rarely taught in traditional economics courses. The free, open access e-book is designed to introduce non-economists to economic methods. 

Nine of the 12 units are now available online. Students can now learn about The firm: Employees, managers, and owners (Unit 6), Firms and the market for goods and services (Unit 7), The labour market: Wages, profits and unemployment (Unit 8) and The credit market: Borrowers, lenders, and the rate of interest (Unit 9).

The CORE team have updated and expanded Doing Economics, the companion volume that started out as a set of data exercises to complement ESPP and has now mushroomed into a standalone set of 12 data projects that some teachers are already incorporating into a wide variety of courses.

The data that the authors of Doing Economics have used shows how diverse and exciting open-access economic data has become. Students will examine management practices in Unit 6, prices in the US market for watermelons from 1930 to 1951 in Unit 7, use the European Values Study to analyse the non-monetary cost of unemployment in Unit 8, and model data from the Ethiopian Socioeconomic Survey to find out more about credit-excluded households in a developing country in Unit 9.

Students have reported finding the resource not just useful, but fun to read. "There is a lightness and relevance to CORE’s approach which makes it feel refreshing and highly engaging. Looking at social issues motivated me to study economics and I feel this captures exactly what I had hoped to study at university," says Emily Pal, who is studying for a BSc Economic and Social Policy at Birkbeck, University of London.

Non-academics have also expressed interest in using ESPP and Doing Economics to create courses in the workplace. A lot of this interest has come from the public sector, where cross-disciplinary teams use statistics, social research and economics to evaluate policy options.

Fiona Dawe, head of Economic Statistics External Engagement and Capability at the Office for National Statistics said: “The potential for the ESPP to provide a way of introducing economics to Government analysts from other disciplines is something that we are looking very closely at. The interactive style of the ESPP makes the potential for using it as a tool to introduce economics to Government analysts very appealing.

"The ONS wants to enhance the effectiveness of multi-discipline analytical teams, and that can be enhanced by building the understanding and respect of the perspectives of the different disciplines. We are looking closely at how the ESPP interactive style can be used to provide a new and exciting opportunity to introduce economics to analysts from other professional backgrounds.”

Emma Gordon, head of the Government Economic & Social Research Unit, at the Treasury, said: "The new Civil Service Analysis Function Strategy states 'The desire to seize the opportunities presented by analysis (and avoid pitfalls) means it is necessary for analytical skills to extend beyond traditional professional boundaries’. The new ESPP and Doing Economics ebooks are valuable resources that we plan to use to help up-skill non-economists to understand basic economic concepts and methods."

The CORE team welcome users to let them know what you think of the units and projects. Revisions will be made throughout the project based on feedback, making small changes where errors slipped through or where non-disruptive urgent improvements can be made. Suggestions are also collected for larger revisions at a later date.

Units 10 to 12 for both ESPP and Doing Economics are already in production, and will be released over the summer.

This news story is based on a blog by Tim Phillips from the CORE project team.