Monthly Archives: March 2013

Kate Allen

A pretty obvious question, you might think. And you’d be right. Yet there’s a surprising amount of uncertainty about the answer.

There are several house price indices which are popularly used in the UK: the Office for National Statistics produces one (previously run by the Department for Communities & Local Government, and hence often called the ONS/DCLG index), as does the Land Registry (the agency which logs all legal sales data). Big mortgage lenders like Halifax and Nationwide produce their own. And then there are those created by independent researchers such as Acadametrics, RICS, Rightmove and Hometrack.

A comparison of these measures shows that there’s quite a bit of variation between them (see below for a brief description of their methodologies). They all closely mapped the UK’s recession-driven price slide in 2008-09, but since then, their findings have become increasingly diverse: Read more

Kate Allen

The British are fond of trotting out the stereotype of their European cousins as apartment-dwelling renters. The comparison is particularly popular when set in contrast with Britons’ traditional “home is my castle” attitude, which supposedly underlies their love of owner-occupation.

But is it actually true? Read more

Kate Allen

What may be the most comprehensive Internet census to date has given a fascinating snapshot of today’s interconnected world. The research was carried out by an anonymous hacker who illegally infiltrated computer networks around the world, and mapped what they found.

There are 1.3 billion IP addresses (individual location identifiers) in use today, of which around 10 per cent are unsecure, the paper estimates. But they are very geographically concentrated; the vast areas of darkness are striking: Read more

Kate Allen

It’s a common cry: “Housing costs are spiralling … we need to build more!” But will building more homes help to reduce the cost of housing?

In actual fact, building more homes seems to be associated with house prices rising. Or perhaps vice versa. Read more

Kate Allen

Britain’s Chancellor has today announced a substantial expansion of the government’s intervention in the housing market. Specifically, he’s going to give government backing to a great deal more mortgage lending. There have already been cries of “Fannie Mae!” as commentators remember the disastrous housing bubble in the US.

But were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac really responsible for driving up house prices? Hmm, maybe not actually. Read more

Kate Allen

Money doesn’t grow on trees, right? That’s what UK chancellor George Osborne will be sighing as he prepares for tomorrow’s annual Budget, which is expected to be stringent. But actually, some British policy-watchers think they’ve found a way to magic more money out of thin air.

It comes down to the hoary old question of the public finances. Specifically, Britain’s main measure is public sector net debt, which doesn’t match international measures such as those set out in the Maastricht Treaty: “The Maastricht debt is limited to general government whereas in the public sector finances the principal debt measure is that for the public sector,” explains the ONS.

The key difference relates to a set of organisations called “public sector trading bodies“. These are basically organisations with their own ringfenced cashflows, spending plans and budgets. The Export Credits Guarantee Department is one. So are local authority housing departments.

“Internationally the focus is on general government measures of debt and borrowing – not including the borrowing and expenditure of public sector trading bodies,” says Steve Wilcox, a professor at the University of York who’s been on a crusade to publicise this for several years. Read more

Can businesses be based on bus timetables and weather reports? Maija Palmer visits the Open Data Institute to learn how entrepreneurs are exploiting valuable government data.

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Britain’s official statistics agency, in its analysis of how median income households have fared over time, has found a small consolation for those on the eastern side of the Atlantic. While UK income inequality is rising, middle-earners’ incomes are more closely related to economic growth than in the US.

The Office for National Statistics used inflation-adjusted data from the US Census Bureau and International Monetary Fund that cover the years 1984 to 2008. It found that US median equivalised disposable income grew at less than half the rate of its GDP per person. For example, by 2008 – the latest year for which data are available – US GDP per person had grown by 55.3 per cent while median incomes had only grown by 26.1 per cent since 1984. Read more

Emily Cadman

Spot quiz: name the leading global causes of death.

The big ones are easy to name – heart diseases, respiratory diseases, malaria, HIV/AIDS etc – but coming in at number eight, road traffic injuries is perhaps less intuitive.

Today’s World Health Organisation report on road safety is a call for more legislation – noting that only 7 percent of the world’s population is covered by legislation covering all five major traffic risks identified by the WHO. In practice this means laws against speeding and driving while intoxicated and requiring motorcycle helmets, seat belts, and child restraints.

It is a dense report worth digesting in more detail, but for now here are the highlight statistics from the report (all graphics courtesy WHO):

1. Although middle income countries – those with a gross national income per capital between $1,006 to $ 12,275 – have only half of the world’s cars, they have 80 per cent of the world’s traffic deaths – and deaths there have been increasing.







  Read more

Valentina Romei

Just over half of the world’s female population aged 15 to 64 is in employment, compared to more than 8 out of 10 men. But the proportion of economically active women has declined over the last 20 years. This offers us little reason to celebrate today, International Women’s Day.

Despite falling female participation levels, global GDP per capita has risen by more than 30 per cent in the past 20 years, suggesting that economic wealth is not necessarily linked to increasing levels of female economic activity. Read more

Kate Allen

Australia’s economy is on the up, the latest data shows, with GDP rising by 0.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter. But the national figures hide a lot of variation at state level. In effect, Australia has a two-speed economy.

Most of the growth was driven by the Northern Territory, where the economy is booming thanks to its dominant mining industry. By contrast Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia were in recession.

Australia final demand by state

 Read more

Kate Allen

The extraordinary extent of Britain’s hidden housing demand is highlighted by a new set of data released today. More than 1 million households have been priced out of the market and cannot afford to either rent or buy a home, it shows. Much of this unsatisfied demand is clustered among the younger age groups.

The figures come from the annual UK Housing Review, an often-overlooked but useful compendium of housing stats and commentary. This year, among other goals, it set out to quantify the extent to which people are unable to secure homes of their own. To do this, authors Steve Wilcox and John Perry looked at a handful of key measures: overcrowding, shared households, and multi-family households. Read more

Kate Allen

Looking for an excuse to leave the office early? Look no further.

Today is the Trades Union Congress’s Work Your Proper Hours Day. The aim is to highlight the scourge of unpaid overtime among Britain’s workforce. And according to the TUC’s figures, the people most likely to be working unpaid overtime are you, dear readers. Read more