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Winners of the UK Data Service Dissertation Award 2020

The winners of the Dissertation Prize 2020 have been announced.

This summer we reviewed entries to the UK Data Service Dissertation Award. Open to undergraduates from social science disciplines at UK universities, the award celebrates outstanding undergraduate dissertations based on excellent reuse of data available through the UK Data Service. Following both internal shortlisting and an anonymous review of the full shortlisted dissertations by the expert judging panel, we are delighted to announce this year’s three winning entries.

Each of the winners have been awarded a prize of £300.

Valeria Pasco Garfias

BSc (Hons) in Economics, University of Manchester

Dissertation title: The Impact of EU Migration on UK productivity

Valeria’s project examined the link between immigration from European Union (EU) countries and productivity in the UK. Since a significant fraction of immigration into the UK has comes from EU countries; understanding the impact of EU migration on economic outcomes has important implications for policy design. This includes the newly proposed points-based immigration system.

Valeria’s research exploited differences in exposure to EU migration across industry groupings between 2000-2016, a period which includes the 2004 EU enlargement. Valeria used the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to compute industry level figures including the share of EU and non-EU born migrants. This new data was then combined with ONS statistics on Multi-Factor Productivity (MFP), to model the relationship between EU immigration and productivity.

Valeria found that EU immigration into specific industry groupings after 2004 had a positive impact on UK productivity, especially in industries more dependent on EU migrant labour. These findings suggest that the end of free movement of labour, which has characterized EU migration into the UK for more than 25 years, could generate pressures in sectors that are heavily dependent on it.

William Holy-Hasted

Human, Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge

Dissertation title: Common Ground: A Study of Urban Public Space and Wellbeing across London

William’s project examined the effect of urban public space on well-being in London, including differences in the impact of green space (i.e. parks) compared to hard-surface space (i.e. civic squares and children’s playgrounds).

The project used data from Wave 6 of Understanding Society combined with public space data from Greenspace Information for Greater London. Using Special License data, William could access ward of residence and link individuals to information about their geographical location.

William’s findings confirmed previous studies in showing positive associations between green space and well-being. William also found that hard space has a positive effect on well-being in neighbourhoods where feelings of safety are generally higher; in contrast, for areas where feelings of safety are lower, hard-space becomes negatively associated with well-being. The impact of feelings of safety on the connection between hard-space and well-being was greater for social renters. This result suggests that for social renters hard public space might offer some of the greatest benefits but also the greatest dangers.

William’s findings suggest the need to theoretically distinguish between different types of public space in future literature. It also implies that urban planning policy cannot focus on space alone. Instead, policy must also tackle the factors contributing to low neighbourhood safety in order to ensure hard public space’s positive effects.

Elizabeth Livesey

BA Social Science (Sociology & Philosophy), University of Manchester

Dissertation title: How does class influence individual perceptions of the environmental crisis and the undertaking of pro-environmental behaviours?

Elizabeth’s project examined the claim that some socio-economic groups are excluded from environmentalism. Using data from Understanding Society, Wave 4, 2012-14, she was able to examine the relationships between social class, perceptions of the environmental crisis and environmental behaviours.

Controlling for other individual factors including education and political affiliation, Elizabeth found that environmental perspectives and behaviours do vary across social classes. In relation to everyday environmental activities those in routine occupations are less likely to report activity, but social class differences are modest in size. However, social class matters more in relation to environmental perspectives and consumptions choices, with those in routine occupations more likely to indicate that the ‘environmental crisis’ has been exaggerated and more likely to purchase pro-environmental options. The findings suggest that socio-economic class, although not forcing total exclusion, has a significant effect on resources and agency to adopt environmental attitudes and behaviours.