UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows 2017: Oliver Exton

We are delighted to announce Oliver Exton @oliver_exton as one of our UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows for 2017. Oliver is an ESRC funded PhD student in Faculty of Economics at the University of Cambridge whose research focuses on firms and workers in international trade.

My research investigates how firms and workers respond to rapid import growth, price changes driven by fluctuations in exchange rates, and changes to EU and extra-EU trading partners’ trade policy. I investigate the magnitude and heterogeneity of firm and worker responses on the extensive and intensive margins. I combine detailed datasets with novel identification strategies to help policy makers understand how changes in Britain’s position in international trade will impact on firms and workers, developing databases using a unique combination of administrative datasets from UK worker, firm and customs tax data sourced from the UK Data Service, ONS and HMRC. I have presented my research to policy makers at the Department for International Trade and Industry and HM Treasury. In 2017-2018, I am assisting with the organisation of three policy workshops and academic mini-conferences and a full academic conference as part of an ESRC Brexit Priority Grant and UK in a Changing Europe programme.

Actively involved in teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, I am Faculty Teaching Assistant for the research element of the Masters Economics courses, where I coordinate and lead workshops on the research process. This course has a focus on promoting effective research methodologies and data citation. In the academic year 2017-18 I’ve been elected as an Economics Faculty Teaching Fellow at Cambridge University to teach International Trade, Policy Evaluation and Applied Microeconomics courses. These courses promote the use of rigorous econometrics techniques with microdata to test economic theories and evaluate policy changes.

I am the principal investigator on two projects using data in the UK Data Service collection to examine the research agenda of “The impact of trade shocks on UK firms and workers”.

  1. “Globalisation and regional decline: The impacts of import competition on Britain’s local labour markets”. This project uses data on the universe of UK enterprises and local units taken from the Business Structure Database and a 1% random sample of workers in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings to identify the historic impacts of import competition on UK firms and workers. The project investigates the impacts of the unprecedented rise in Chinese import competition following China’s accession to the WTO in 2001 on the extensive margin of adjustment for firms (entry/exit) and workers (layoffs), as well as the intensive margins of adjustment for firms (revenue, employment, industry switching) and workers (wages). The project determines the relative strength of the employment and wage response of the UK labour market in response to changes in international competition. This evidence on the intensive and extensive margins of UK firm and workers adjustment in response to trade shocks is critical for policy makers to understand the magnitude and heterogeneity of changes in trade policy post-Brexit on firm and worker outcomes.

The second stage of the project investigates how the effects of import competition propagate within local labour markets to impact firms and workers not directly exposed to the trade shock. The project develops a model to illustrate how the local aggregate demand and worker relocation channels produce heterogeneous impacts for tradeable and non-tradeable industries within local labour markets. The project tests this theory using the detailed geographic data available in the Business Structure Database and uses the ONS defined Travel to Work Areas developed from the Census to identify local labour markets. Identifying the wider impacts of international competition is essential for policy makers to understand the distributional impacts of future trade shocks that will arise as Britain leaves the EU.

Finally, the project investigates how workers relocate following layoffs using a unique matched employer-employee database constructed using plant level information from the Business Structure Database and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. This evidence on how UK workers respond following layoffs will help policy makers to develop appropriate trade assistance programmes that have not yet been utilised in Britain.

  1. “Firm level impacts of trade policy shocks”. This project investigates the impact of EU trade policy on UK firms using a novel natural experiment on firm level outcomes in the Business Structure Database. The UK has been a member of the single market since 1993 and has therefore imposed the EU common external tariff and trade remedies schedule. However, the UK has typically preferred a more liberal trade policy regime than its European counterparts. This project utilises information on the nationality of interested parties that requested successfully imposed trade remedies policies to identify policies that no British firm supported and hence were  imposed on Britain.

The project first investigates the impact of trade policies on firm level outcomes, including turnover, employment and productivity in the industries directly affected by the trade remedies schedule using firm level data in the Business Structure Database. The project secondly investigates how the impact of trade policies can propagate to affect the wider economy through supply chain networks using information on inter-industry domestic linkages from the Input-Output tables and international linkages using the linked HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics and VAT databases.

To understand the interdependence of the national and international supply chain effects, the project creates a new and unique database linking the HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics taken from Customs records and the HMRC VAT database (which is a feeder database for the Business Structure Database). The project contributes to the academic and policy fields through estimating trade elasticities and the wider propagation effects of trade policy using a novel identification strategy. It therefore provides a unique evidence base for policy decisions as Britain leaves the European Union and renegotiates its trading relationship with trading partners.

Data Impact Fellowship activities

As a UK Data Service Data Impact Fellow I am excited about sharing my experience of work with policy makers to disseminate my empirical research using data sourced from the UK Data Service. I look forward to producing blog posts on my experience with: Developing opportunities to present research to policymakers; Engaging with policy makers to shape research; Winning grants to fund policy relevant research; Working with data providers to develop high impact research. I will continue to encourage the use and citation of UK Data Service data in my role as a Faculty Teaching Assistant at Cambridge where I help Masters students with the early stages of the research process, and in my role as an undergraduate dissertation supervisor at Jesus College, Cambridge.

I will use the Data Impact Fellowship to support my research outreach to policy makers and wider public engagement. The funds will be used to facilitate my impact work with high ranking policy makers in London. This will include covering the travel costs of these impact activities and funding meeting spaces when necessary. The funds will be spent on improving my digital outreach, through any necessary computer equipment to enable me to produce impact papers, blogs and video blogs to engage with the wider public and disseminate the results of my research.

Follow Oliver’s journey as a #DataImpactFellows @UKDSImpact @oliver_exton

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