Monthly Archives: October 2012

Kate Allen

The number of housing benefit claimants is rising, and thus so is the cost to the Treasury, data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows. The number of people claiming housing benefit has increased by a startling 780,000 since the beginning of 2009 to 5 million.

There are a couple of small rays of light for the government.

Firstly, the rate of increase in claimants has slowed since the general election in May 2010.

Number of housing benefit claimants Read more

In Europe and the US, they are often called “squeezed” or “worried”. In developing markets, they are “booming”, “growing” and, of course, “emerging”.

The middle classes are changing consumption habits around the world. Chart of the week takes a look at some key emerging markets and the level of middle class spending.


We have used data from the OECD and the Brookings Institution which define the middle class as those earning 10 to 100 dollars at purchasing power parity per day. On this basis, more than half of the globe’s middle class people are forecast to be in the Asia Pacific region in fewer then 10 years, compared to the current proportion of only one in four.

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Kate Allen

“Oh we do like to be beside the seaside, oh we do like to be beside the sea”, as the classic English music-hall song goes. But for many people, that’s no longer the case. British seaside towns – once the bastion of the country’s summer economy – now have the nation’s highest levels of insolvency, according to a data analysis by the Office for National Statistics.

Four of the five highest rates of insolvencies in 2011 (per 10,000 adult population) were areas containing seaside towns, and they make up just under half of the top 20.

Highest rates of insolvencies 2011 Read more

Kate Allen

Far too few people in the UK have the quantitative skills needed by employers and policy-makers, according to a paper published this week by the British Academy. It argues the deficit has

Serious implications for the future of the UK’s status as a world leader in research and higher education, for the employability of our graduates, and for the competitiveness of the UK’s economy.

As increasing amounts of data becomes available in large-scale databases, public debate will increasingly turn on statistical arguments, the group said, and it is therefore essential to provide citizens with the ability to understand, analyse and criticise data – indeed, this will be “ever more integral to the functioning of a democracy”.

The report comes as a new £15.5m funding programme is launched by the Economic & Social Research Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Nuffield Foundation, aiming to boost quantitative methods training in UK universities’ social science departments. Up to 15 universities will receive funding to become centres of excellence for quantitative methods training.

The British Academy traces the skills deficit back to school level, where the UK lags behind many other countries in the proportion of pupils studying maths at upper secondary level (beyond 16). This was illustrated in a paper for the Nuffield Foundation in 2010.

Maths participation rates at upper-secondary level Read more

When we started these posts for the 2012 election season, the goal was to give a purely numbers-driven look at the presidential election – a respite from the noise. Not that the media coverage isn’t useful, however it can be occasionally useful to turn off the noise and just look at the data.

Let’s get a sense of the polls for the last month and a half. Each of these graphs looks at the race(s) from September 1 to mid October.

Real Clear Politics (RCP)

Now that’s what I call volatility. After being in a dead heat in early September, Obama built a lead that hovered in the 3-4 point range for much of the month. The October 3 debate was seen as an important turning point, giving Romney some sorely needed momentum. It is important to note, however, that he had been trending up in the days preceding the event.

To the market!

Iowa Electronic Market (IEM)

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Kate Allen

Just as we thought the era of frothy housing markets was over, whispers of a German property bubble are beginning to grow. The recent data are certainly startling – since early 2010 the rate of house price growth has really taken off.

House prices in 7 German cities

But before ploughing your life savings into a buy-to-let scheme in Schleswig-Holstein, wait a second. Because a longer-term perspective shows that most German property is only just returning to the price levels of nearly two decades ago: Read more