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When numbers aren’t neutral: the hidden politics of budget calculators

The BBC News Budget 2017 calculator

The day after last week’s budget, I logged onto the BBC News website and clicked on their budget calculator to find out if I was a winner or a loser. The questions are pretty simple: first off, it asks how much you drink, smoke and drive, and then it asks how much you earn, plus a few bits and bobs to cover technicalities. Then, it spits out an answer: did Phil leave you feeling flush, was it more of a hammering at the hands of Hammond? I came away £8 a month better off…and significantly angrier than I expected.

Watch Tim Harford recording a new radio show about economics for the BBC

Fans of Tim Harford and his work on BBC Radio 4’s More or Less will be excited to learn he’s doing a new radio show about economics. In this post on his blog, he explains the show will be called ‘Pop Up Economics’, and consist of short stories about important people and ideas in economics.

The show is being recorded in the evening this coming Tuesday 4th December, in London, and if you’d like to go along, you can email popupeconomics@bbc.co.uk for tickets and details.

Via @TimHarford on Twitter.

Nobel prize for economics awarded to a mathematician

There may be no Nobel in mathematics, but that needn’t stop mathematicians winning one: Lloyd Shapley has just won the Nobel prize for economics, for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.

Lloyd Shapley described himself in an Associated Press interview:

“I consider myself a mathematician and the award is for economics. I never, never in my life took a course in economics.”

But if you don’t take his word for it, look on over at his entry on the Mathematics Genealogy Project, and you’ll find his thesis is on “Additive and Non-Additive Set Functions”.

The Nobel prize website has some details on the theory of stable allocations and market design, but an old AMS feature column gives a gentler mathematical introduction, via the elegant graph theory of Hall’s Marriage theorem.

New UK economic and social data service to launch in October

The UK Data Service, due to launch on 1 October 2012, is funded for five years by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and aims to “support researchers in academia, business, third sector and all levels of government” by providing “a unified point of access to the extensive range of high quality economic and social data, including valuable census data”.

Out-of-work economists will probably not turn to bank robbery

Three economists decided to examine bank robbery as an economic activity. They were given access to data from the British Bankers’ Association on the amounts stolen during robberies, pretended to be statisticians for a bit, and came up with some interesting results. They’ve written up their findings in a feature article in the June edition of Significance.

Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.