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Author's Name: Lisa Cameron
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Lisa Cameron

Professor Lisa Cameron

Lisa Cameron is a Professorial Research Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. She is an empirical micro-economist whose research incorporates the techniques of experimental and behavioural economics so as to better understand human decision-making. Much of her research focuses on policy evaluation - understanding the impacts and behavioural implications of public policy, with a focus on social and economic issues. She is particularly interested in the welfare of disadvantaged and marginalised groups and the socio-economic determinants of health in Australia and Asia - particularly Indonesia and China. She has extensive experience collaborating with agencies such as the World Bank and DFAT (formerly AusAID). She has been a member of the Editorial Board of Australia’s leading economic journal, the Economic Record. She is an Affiliated Professor at J-PAL, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Poverty Action Lab. She holds a Phd in economics from Princeton University and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences in 2013.

Subject Area Expertise

Microeconomics, development economics; human capital – health, education and labour economics; experimental and behavioural economics.

Website

https://sites.google.com/view/lisa-a-cameron/home

 


Responses (31)


Motherhood, caring and the careers of Australian women - April 2019

Poll 37

Proposition 1: "Without changes to existing public policy or private sector practice in Australia, motherhood will always negatively affect a woman's career."

Proposition 2: "In Australia, fathers are more restricted than mothers in fulfilling a caring role while in employment."

 

Part 1 - Strongly agree

10

That becoming a parent adversely affects women's labour market participation is clearly demonstrated by the differences in participation rates of men and women who have children in Australia. That public policy and work culture can address this is evidenced by the rates of labour market participation in countries such as Sweden who have actively designed policy to reduce this gap. Approximately 83% of mothers are employed in Sweden compared to just over 60% in Australia. Sweden has done this through public policies such as the provision of paternity leave to fathers (which cannot be transferred to mothers and so expires if not taken by the father). These public policies have led to a culture in which it becomes the norm for fathers to share child-rearing responsibilities and for the work place to accommodate this. In relation to proposition 2, men do face challenges when trying to negotiate work arrangements, such as reduced working hours, so as to be able to care for their child. This is a result of the social norms (reinforced by current public policy) that child care is primarily the mother's role. However, I also think that many men use this as an excuse for shirking from sharing child rearing responsibilities, and/or they are often too fearful to ask their employer for such conditions out of concern about how they will be perceived. Men need to ask and push for such change. It is too easy to just say it is not possible or that their request will not be considered. Finally, on a personal note, as a professor of economics and mother who has worked part-time since the birth of her first child 17 years ago, part-time employment if chosen by the woman can offer lots of benefits. I notice that 40% of women working part time aged over 45 do so because they prefer it. Both mothers and fathers need to be able to choose the arrangements that suit them best. In my case this involves both me and my husband working part-time. It gives us both the best of both worlds.

Part 2 - Agree

7


Professional Accreditation of Economists - March 2019

Poll 36

Proposition 1: "Professional accreditation for the economics profession would attract more people to economics as a career."

Proposition 2: "The benefits of professional accreditation for current and prospective economists would exceed any possible costs"

 

Part 1 - Disagree

7

Part 2 - Disagree

7

In my experience from talking to many students about whether to continue with their economic studies, the problem with economics is not the career path but the image of the discipline. Economics brings up images of boring, middle-aged white men in grey suits who think they have all the answers. For many students this is a real turn off. Female students, for example, often come to me and express that they can't see how they can fit in to this scene, and whether it would even be worth trying. I find it quite discouraging myself. The dullness of economics is also reinforced in the way that it is often taught, in a very dry manner which reflects the dominant paradigm. This is not a criticism of the use of mathematics in economics - it is important to teach the maths but teach it in the context of a broader range of interesting examples. I have done this in my teaching in the past and students have responded very positively. I was attracted to economics because of its focus on improving human welfare. The analytical tools of economics are so valuable in assessing human decision-making and public policy. Portraying economics in this light (as a social science, rather than as a business subject) is in my view likely to attract a much more diverse range of students. The problem with canvassing the view of economists (the majority of whom are very much like the stereotypical image) on this topic is that they have pulled their way through economics as it is today and contributed to the shaping of it. Solutions are not likely to come from this quarter. I am not overly concerned about the drop in the study of economics at secondary school. I am only concerned to the extent that it reflects economics' image problem. In my view, secondary school students are better off acquiring core analytical skills through science, maths, english and humanities, which they can later apply to specialist study at university. I would be opposed to further cluttering the secondary school curriculum by introducing economics earlier.


Motherhood, caring and the careers of Australian women - April 2019

Poll 37

Proposition 1: "Without changes to existing public policy or private sector practice in Australia, motherhood will always negatively affect a woman's career."

Proposition 2: "In Australia, fathers are more restricted than mothers in fulfilling a caring role while in employment."

 

Part 1 - Strongly agree

10

That becoming a parent adversely affects women's labour market participation is clearly demonstrated by the differences in participation rates of men and women who have children in Australia. That public policy and work culture can address this is evidenced by the rates of labour market participation in countries such as Sweden who have actively designed policy to reduce this gap. Approximately 83% of mothers are employed in Sweden compared to just over 60% in Australia. Sweden has done this through public policies such as the provision of paternity leave to fathers (which cannot be transferred to mothers and so expires if not taken by the father). These public policies have led to a culture in which it becomes the norm for fathers to share child-rearing responsibilities and for the work place to accommodate this. In relation to proposition 2, men do face challenges when trying to negotiate work arrangements, such as reduced working hours, so as to be able to care for their child. This is a result of the social norms (reinforced by current public policy) that child care is primarily the mother's role. However, I also think that many men use this as an excuse for shirking from sharing child rearing responsibilities, and/or they are often too fearful to ask their employer for such conditions out of concern about how they will be perceived. Men need to ask and push for such change. It is too easy to just say it is not possible or that their request will not be considered. Finally, on a personal note, as a professor of economics and mother who has worked part-time since the birth of her first child 17 years ago, part-time employment if chosen by the woman can offer lots of benefits. I notice that 40% of women working part time aged over 45 do so because they prefer it. Both mothers and fathers need to be able to choose the arrangements that suit them best. In my case this involves both me and my husband working part-time. It gives us both the best of both worlds.

Part 2 - Agree

7


Congestion pricing - November 2018

 

Strongly agree

8

Road congestion charges provide a useful incentive to drivers to either switch from driving to public transport, to switch to driving at a less congested time, or possibly to forego travel by, for example, working from home. Society benefits from reduced congestion and lesser carbon emissions etc. The same is true of plane travel charges. The proceeds could be used to lower other taxes but may be better spent on transport infrastructure, e.g. public transport, which would yield further public benefits.


Banking Royal Commission and the Credit Crunch - October 2018

Poll 33

Proposition 1: "There is a significant risk that, either as a result of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry or as a result of the financial institutions' response to those findings, credit will become less readily available to Australian households or businesses."

Proposition 2: "Assuming credit becomes less readily available to Australian households or businesses, this will in turn have adverse consequences for the performance of the Australian economy."

 

1 - Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

2 - Disagree

1 -

2 - In the medium to long term a more sound and ethical financial system should work for the benefit of the economy and society.


Waste Policy - August 2018

Poll 32

"There are clear net benefits for Australians from (further) increasing the diversion of waste from Australian landfills."

 

Agree

8

It is unsustainable to keep producing the amount of waste that Australian households produce. The costs of landfill (including the environmental costs) will grow into the future and there are economic opportunities to be had in the expansion of our ability to recycle within Australia.


Sugar sweetened beverage tax for Australia - July 2018

Poll 31

Proposition 1: "The best economic policy instrument available to policy makers seeking to address obesity and related health issues in Australia is the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs)."

Proposition 2: "The health and non-health benefits from a tax on SSBs are likely to outweigh the possible costs felt elsewhere in the economy."

 

1 - Agree

2 - Agree


Electric vehicles and road-use pricing - June 2018

Poll 30

"Pricing of road-use for electric vehicles should be the same as fossil fuel-powered vehicles."

 

Agree

8

Although electric vehicles have the advantage of not using fossil fuels and so reducing carbon emissions, they still contribute to road congestion, the need for road infrastructure and maintenance, parking and traffic accidents. Hence, drivers of these vehicles should contribute to covering the costs through the same pricing of road-use as for other vehicles.


Australian Federal Budget 2018 - Reduce government debt or provide tax cuts? - April 2018

Poll 28

Proposition 1: "Slowing the growth in the debt to GDP ratio should be a priority for Australian governments."

Proposition 2: "Slowing the growth in the debt to GDP ratio is a higher priority than income or corporate tax cuts."

 

1 - Agree

2 - Agree

1 - Although the public debt to GDP ratio has grown over the past 10 years, it is not especially high by international standards. Nevertheless, Australian governments should endeavour to keep the growth in public debt in check.

2 - Reducing public debt is more desirable than reducing taxes because tax cuts tend to get locked in as it is politically difficult for future governments to increase tax rates. Thus tax cuts are likely to result in greater government debt in the future and/or undesirable public spending cuts. Australian society would be best off if governments focussed on building the tax revenue base so as to allow future public expenditures that are necessary to ensuring a cohesive society without necessitating increases in government debt.


Gig economy and worker welfare - February 2018

Poll 26

"The wages and conditions of Australian workers providing services in sectors affected by the rapid growth of digital on-demand subcontracting platforms will, on average, be expected to fall without further government intervention."

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

6

I am concerned about the impact of sub-contracting through platforms such as Uber as the "employer" takes very little responsibility for the "employee" (including not even acknowledging that they are an employer) and most of the risk falls on the worker. These sub-contracting arrangements undermine many of the hard fought for protections for workers. Wages and conditions of workers in these sectors are low and are likely to remain low, whether they will fall further in future is unclear.


Journalism as a public good - January 2018

Poll 25

Proposition 1: "The modern phenomena of information overload and social-media-fuelled 'fake news' bring into focus the value of quality journalism. Quality journalism has a public-good dimension that warrants public support."

Proposition 2: "The Australian government presently provides funding for the ABC and SBS, Australia's independent public broadcasters. The Australian government should increase its financial support of quality journalism."

 

1 - Strongly agree

2 - Strongly agree


Same sex marriage - November 2017

Poll 24

"Assuming that the law will be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry in Australia, this will generate net economic benefits for the nation as a whole over the next 10 years."

 

Agree

8

There will be economic benefits in terms of a boom in the wedding, and related industries. Also, by providing same sex couples with more certainty and confidence about their futures, the change in law may stimulate additional spending and joint investment on their part. The overall economic impacts are likely to be modest.


Robots, artificial intelligence and the 'future of work' - October 2017

Poll 23

Question A: "Holding labor market institutions and job training fixed, rising use of robots and artificial intelligence is likely to increase substantially the number of workers in Australia who are unemployed for long periods."

Question B: "Rising use of robots and artificial intelligence in Australia is likely to create benefits large enough that they could be used to compensate those workers who are substantially negatively affected for their lost wages."

 

A - Agree

B - Uncertain

Many routine aspects of jobs will be automated which will reduce labour demand, although I suspect not as dramatically as many people are predicting as human judgement will remain important in many roles. The benefits to those who own capital will probably be substantial and maybe enough to compensate the unemployed but the distribution of these benefits will be highly concentrated and it is unlikely that governments will be able to extract enough revenue to compensate those who are negatively affected.


Does privatisation of human services hurt outcomes? - July 2017

Poll 20

"For-profit provision of human services like health and education leads to poor client outcomes and high costs to government."

 

Agree

7

There is great variability in the quality of education and health services provided by the private sector. Some are high quality and some poor quality. Some are also over-priced given the quality of the service received. It is often difficult for clients to assess the level of quality prior to purchase and there are incentives for private providers to exploit the system and drive up the costs to both the government and clients. In general, the system could be improved by greater transparency and information made available to potential clients on the quality of service and the price. For example, information on patient outcomes and cost of service of medical providers, particularly specialists and hospitals.


Gender diversity in the workplace - role of government? - June 2017

Poll 19

"The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into "Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women's economic equality" was asked to examine measures to encourage women?s participation in male-dominated occupations and industries. Although there is growing awareness of the productivity gains of gender diversity, the private market alone is unlikely to steer the Australian labour market toward gender equality in male-dominated industries. Breaking down gender segregation in the labour market can only be achieved with some degree of government intervention."

 

Agree

8


Australian Federal Budget 2017 - Outsourcing Economic Forecasting - May 2017

Poll 18

"Given the Commonwealth Treasury?s ongoing difficulty in making accurate forecasts of some of the key economic variables underpinning the Budget ? in particular nominal GDP growth ? the Government should ?outsource? the economic forecasts used in framing the Budget to an independent agency (such as the Parliamentary Budget Office), as now happens in the United Kingdom."

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

6

Treasury has a host of good economic minds. I would not be confident that an independent agency could do a better job, although countering this an independent agency may be under less political pressure.


CGT deductions - March 2017

Poll 16

"Capital gains tax deductions for housing investment should be removed because they overstimulate the housing market, contributing to rising house prices."

 

Strongly agree

9


Economics teaching - micro before macro - February 2017

Poll 15

"It is more effective to teach an introductory course in micro-economics first before an introductory course in macro-economics."

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

6

I don't think it matters much. Ideally they would be taught at the same time. An advantage of teaching micro first is that it introduces the student to the assumptions at the micro-level that are implicit in many of the macro models.


2016 US Election - November 2016

Poll 13

"Hillary Clinton is likely to be the superior US presidential candidate for the Australian economy and for Australia."

 

Strongly agree

10

I am sick of reading that both presidential candidates are weak candidates and seriously flawed. Hillary Clinton is one of the most experienced candidates to run for office. You need not agree with all of her policies but she is super smart, driven, and has accomplished a great deal. Just look at her CV. Donald Trump is a dangerous, unpredictable ego maniac who knows very little about public policy. Clinton will be a steady foreign policy hand whereas Trump may wreak havoc. The gender bias in the coverage of this election and in the reactions from the general public is seriously depressing.


Social costs of gambling - December 2016

Poll 14

"The social costs of gambling exceed the benefits (including consumer surplus from recreational gambling and tax revenue for governments)."

 

Strongly agree

9

Gambling results in a transfer of resources from the most vulnerable in society to the more wealthy, including the mega-wealthy. No amount of tax revenue (and consumer surplus) can compensate for the destruction of some people's lives.


Part 1: 'Behavioural economics provides new and useful insights into individual behaviour.' Part 2: 'It is unethical for governments to use behavioural economics to

The total benefit of current levels* of migration to Australia will outweigh the total costs to Australia's economy.

 

Agree

8

Behavioural economics improves on traditional economics by allowing a more realistic understanding and modelling of people's preferences rather than assuming we are all maximising our individual pay-offs. Most notably, it allows an understanding of social preferences and the implications for policy of such preferences. Experimental economics is playing an important role in improving our understanding of human behaviour, which then feeds into more realistic theoretical models.


Immigration - November 2016

Poll 12

'The total benefit of current levels* of migration to Australia will outweigh the total costs to Australia's economy'.

 

Agree

8

Immigrants provide benefits in the form of their labour and demand for domestic goods and services which leads to economic growth. There are many other non-economic benefits that also flow from having a more culturally diverse population. Many people who fear immigration do so on the basis that immigrants take jobs that would otherwise be available for Australians. However, most careful empirical studies of immigration find that the economic growth that accompanies immigration results in modest increases in employment opportunities for the rest of the population.


Behavioural economics - September 2016

Poll 11

Part 1: 'Behavioural economics provides new and useful insights into individual behaviour.'

Part 2: 'It is unethical for governments to use behavioural economics to "nudge" citizens.'

 

PART 1 - Strongly disagree

8

As long as governments use "nudges" for socially beneficial purposes e.g. increasing tax payments, I see no ethical problem. A recent experimental paper showed that nudges can be effective even when people know they are being "nudged". Hence, there need be no subterfuge. A larger question is how effective nudges are in the long term. It is likely that the population will in time become inured to being nudged in the same way, hence the need for continual innovation in the nudging messages.

PART 2 - Strongly disagree

8

As long as governments use "nudges" for socially beneficial purposes e.g. increasing tax payments, I see no ethical problem. A recent experimental paper showed that nudges can be effective even when people know they are being "nudged". Hence, there need be no subterfuge. A larger question is how effective nudges are in the long term. It is likely that the population will in time become inured to being nudged in the same way, hence the need for continual innovation in the nudging messages.


The Brexit - impact on UK citizens - July 2016

Poll 9

"Assuming it is implemented, Brexit will deliver net economic benefits, on average, to UK citizens within its first 5 years."

 

Disagree

7

Brexit is likely to have negative impacts on the UK economy because it will make doing business in Europe harder for UK residents, and vice-versa. The high level of uncertainty about how the exit will work and what it will mean in practice is also likely to dampen investment. There is also the possibility of further disruption if it leads to Scotland leaving the UK.


Spend on education or business tax cut - June 2016

Poll 8

"Australia will receive a bigger economic growth dividend in the long-run by spending on education than offering an equivalent amount of money on a tax cut to business."

 

Strongly agree

9

Future economic growth will depend to a large extent on Australia's ability to innovate and develop high tech services and manufacturing. Investing in education, particularly maths and sciences, is essential in this respect and Australia's declining educational performance jeopardises our ability to compete internationally in these sectors. Any increased educational expenditure also needs to address the unacceptably high and increasing educational inequality in this country. High inequality  serves as a brake on economic growth. In contrast to investing in education, tax cuts to business have a very uncertain economic impact.


Budget 2016-17 - Returning to surplus - May 2016

Poll 7

"The recently released 2016-17 Commonwealth Budget projects that the Australian Government's underlying cash balance will return to surplus by 2020?21*. Australian politicians should rebalance the budget with greater urgency."

 

Disagree

8

Australia's government debt to GDP ratio, although increasing, is not high by international standards, and far lower than that of the US and European countries. It is also not particularly high relative to the past (lower than 1880-1970). To the extent that governments should be looking to reduce the budget deficit, the focus should be on increasing revenue rather than cutting government expenditure. Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP is relatively low compared to other wealthy countries. Empirical evidence that cutting (raising) taxes significantly boosts (hinders) economic growth is weak.


Efficiency of tax Government investments in major sporting events - February/March 2016

Poll 5

"Government investments in major sporting events usually generate net benefits for the city or region where the investment is made."

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

8

It is hard to generalise on this one. A lot depends on the nature of the event and it is very difficult to know, even for a specific event what the net benefits are. The costs are relatively easy to calculate but the benefits are more difficult - in terms of the expenditures by the tourists who are attracted to the event, by locals who attend and also possibly unrelated expenditure driven by increases in confidence that can accompany such events. In my view, the arguments for and against hosting such events should not be purely economic. I would place relatively little weight on the economic arguments given the nebulous nature of any estimate of the net benefits.


Bah Humbug Australia - December 2015

Poll 3

"Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash."

 

Disagree

8

I suspect my mother agrees with this statement, as she directs me to give her certain things or returns what I have chosen most years, but I disagree! Selecting gifts encourages you to think about those close to you, what they like and dislike, and may involve sharing something with them that has given you pleasure. Sometimes there are mismatches, but the benefits of this process and appreciation for the efforts made by others means that the utility of the gift-giving process exceeds the monetary value of the gifts exchanged.


Penalty Rates Reform - November 2015

Poll 2

"Aligning Sunday penalty rates for hospitality, entertainment and retailing industries with the current levels for Saturday, as proposed in the Productivity Commission's draft report, will lead to more employment and greater availability of services in these industries on Sundays."

 

Agree

6

This move would likely lead to an increase in these services on Sundays and possibly more employment in response to the lower wage - whether this is desirable or not is a separate point. In my view workers should be compensated for working on a day which is less desirable to many and the impacts on family life of more weekend activity and employment need to be taken into account and may well offset any welfare gains.