A three-year Economics PhD scholarship for candidates who wish to evaluate a preventative public policy against recidivism, which consists of a one-to-one mentoring programme targeted to young men serving short sentences in prison.
There is broad and consistent evidence that changing the expected economic returns to legal and illegal activities can influence recidivism. Yet, economic incentives might be only part of the story of re-offending. Less is known about other interventions offering individual support on practical or personal problems, such as relationship issues, accessing housing or healthcare, finding training or work.
This project will empirically examine a one-to-one mentoring programme funded by the Scottish Government that aimed at helping male offenders aged 18-25, serving up to four-year sentences over six months pre- and six months post-release from prison. The programme adopts a preventative strategy to tackle re-offending revolving around a nine-point ‘behaviour change’ approach, by identifying weaknesses in nine different contexts: health (general and mental); addiction; education and training; employment; relationships; finance; housing; attitudes; and behaviours. The programme aims at identifying areas of prisoners’ weaknesses before leaving prison, and reducing informational frictions putting them in contact with the suitable networks of public services and organisations upon release.
This project will evaluate different potential effects of the programme including recidivism, committed crime, and mental health outcomes. Leveraging modern applied microeconometrics methods of causal inference along with rich administrative data from the justice system, the police and NHS records, this project will provide the first rigorous evaluation of a unique preventative programme against recidivism.
The findings will make an important contribution to both the academic literature as well as the policy debate, and have the potential to influence future policy design.
This project is partially funded by a third sector organisation (the Wise Group) in charge of implementing the mentoring programme, which will provide support to the supervisory team and the PhD student to share data, resources, and detailed information on the mentoring programme.
Candidates must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with an economics or similar quantitative component.
- A Master’s degree (or equivalent) in economics, with the expected completion date no later than September 2022.
- An interest in policy evaluation and assessment of causal effects, and a willingness to conduct advanced data analysis to approach research questions.
- A willingness to engage both with rigorous academic work and with realising the impact of research findings beyond the confines of academia.
- Candidates who are not native English speakers will be required to provide evidence for their English skills (such as by IELTS or similar tests that are approved by UKVI, or a degree completed in an English-speaking country).