ESRI April 2023 Newsletter

Dear Reader,

At the beginning of April we published Switching activity in retail financial markets in Ireland. This report, which was funded by the Department of Finance and undertaken by our Behavioural Research Unit, established that consumers are missing out on better deals when buying financial products. Most people rely on personal recommendations or the bank they already use instead of seeking better value. A survey of almost 3000 consumers found that 73% did not shop around when choosing their bank account. The figure was 68% for loans. The most surprising result related to mortgages. 46% of surveyed consumers did not compare offers.

Last week we launched the novel report Experimental tests of public support for disability policy in collaboration with the National Disability Authority (NDA). This report used a list experiment methodology, where one group are asked directly about an issue and another group is afforded anonymity with their answers. The goal is to unveil hidden attitudes.

In this study, we focussed on peoples’ support for disability. Anonymity made the largest difference on policies designed to help disabled people meet the extra cost of living associated with having a disability. Support for increased social welfare payments for disabled people was lower (66%) when respondents had more anonymity than when asked directly (77%). One interesting, and perhaps dispiriting, finding was the difference anonymity made to respondents with higher levels of education. 76% supported increased social welfare payments when asked directly. When given anonymity, this dropped to 59%. The list experiment is a great way to expose how people respond with ‘socially desirable’ answers when they are not anonymous.

This study also showed support for disability policies is much lower when questions specify how policies will be funded or potential trade-offs. Initially, 84% of people said they supported building more wheelchair infrastructure. This support lessened when reducing parking or cycling infrastructure was proposed as the trade-off - 77% for parking and 67% for cycling.

Both these reports have important implications for policy. With the financial products report and the exit of some banks from the Irish market, we need to encourage consumers to shop around to increase competitiveness between financial providers. On the disability report, there are potential lessons for communicating policy proposals among population cohorts. A key finding was that support for disability support is strongest among those closest to someone with a disability. Improved understanding of challenges and empathy are vital.

In terms of upcoming events, we have an open evening planned for our MSc in Economic Policy in Trinity College Dublin on 16th May. There is a conference on young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) taking place in the Institute on 11th May. European and Irish research will be discussed, as well as case studies. Find details for these events and more below.

I am delighted to welcome the following companies and public bodies who have joined the ESRI as corporate members over the past number of months, and are each contributing €5,000: Department of Defence, Irish Rail, National Transport Authority, Norbrook, The Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Portwest, Louth County Council, An Post, Sisk, Cork County Council, Limerick County Council, BD, Dublin City Council, Ryanair, The Central Bank of Ireland, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Institute of Bankers, Aer Lingus, Meath County Council, Mazars, and Kerry County Council.


Professor Alan Barrett