Monthly Archives: September 2012

It has been a rocky road for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney since we last checked in on the polls, and the money is starting to lose faith in the challenger.

The Iowa Electronic Market from 8/23 through 9/25:


As of the end of trading on September 25, the disparity in contracts between Romney and US President Barack Obama was at an all-time high. The polls tell a similar, albeit more muted, story. Read more

Kate Allen

London is widely known for being a city of immigrants – famously, a third of its residents were born abroad. It’s not quite so well-known as a city of emigrants. But, at least within the UK, that is its role.

According to internal migration data recently released by the Office for National Statistics, London sees by far the greatest population loss of all the English regions. 242,000 people moved out of London in 2011. When offset against those moving to the capital, this resulted in a net loss of 40,000 people.

Flow of people Read more

Average incomes from pensions are highest in the Conservative heartlands of the South of Britain, so this is where the pain would be felt if winter fuel allowances, free bus passes and free TV licences for pensioners were means-tested.

In this interactive map, parliamentary constituencies are grouped according to the taxpayers’ mean income from pensions. The constituencies are pooled into five equally-sized groups with those with the richest pensioners shaded darkest, and the poorest pensioners lightest. These can be compared with the party of the current MP for each area.

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Kate Allen

Scrapping the UK census could seriously undermine politicians’ ability to formulate evidence-based social policy, a committee of MPs has warned.

The Office for National Statistics is currently considering whether to abolish the national census, which has taken place every 10 years since 1801 (except for 1941, when it was cancelled as a result of the Second World War). The government has suggested that the census is too expensive – the 2011 census cost £480m.

Alternative data collection methods under consideration include making greater use of local administrative data sets and internet research methods. The ONS will reach a conclusion in 2014 about whether to carry out the 2021 census.

The Commons Science & Technology Committee has looked into the possible alternatives to the census. In a new report, it said that the social science benefits of the census “outweigh the financial costs”. It was “not convinced that the use of administrative data would be a cheaper option over a 10-year census cycle”, it said. Read more

Chris Cook

The argument about GCSE English grades continues to boil away. Legal actions are commencing. The attention has uncovered clues that exam reforms over the past few years have, by accident, been more substantial than ministers or officials had intended. The marking system used for the old O-level might have been reintroduced by stealth – and accident.

Here’s why: English exams used to deploy a process called “norm referencing” (or “marking on a curve”). That means that, in effect, you hand out grades depending on their position. In 1963, it was decided that roughly the top 10 per cent of A-level entrants would get an A, the next 15 per cent a B and so on.

Since the 1980s, exams have used “criterion referencing”. That is to say, they say “if you know the date of the Battle of Hastings, that is worth an C. If you know about William the Conqueror’s claim on the throne, you get a B. If you know about Hardrada, get an A…” Under this model, you can have changing numbers of pupils getting each grade.

This graph, from Alan Smithers at Buckingham, shows what happened when England switched from one to the other in the late 1980s.

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Valentina Romei

Ever feel you’ve read all there is to read about China’s growth as a world manufacturing power? Well, did you know that China now has almost complete control of the world’s umbrella market?

China exported over $2.4bn of umbrellas, walking-sticks and whips in 2010, over three quarters – and rising – of global export share.

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