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What works for what

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We’ve got a new set of resources on our website which break down the findings in our evidence reviews by the effect of policies on different economic outcomes.

Given our focus on local economic growth, we place particular emphasis on outcomes that most directly capture change in a local economy: wages, employment, and productivity. There are, of course, many other important ways in which places differ – in terms of the quality of life that they offer and the cost of living, for example. But, ultimately, if policy isn’t having an effect on wages, employment or productivity it’s pretty hard to claim that it’s improving local economic growth. And that, after all, is the main remit of the centre.

That said, we may still be interested in some of these other outcomes. Sometime, because they may act as proxies for the likely effect on local economic growth. For example, if business advice increases firm exports, then this may well translate through in to improved local economic growth. If we have information on exports, but not wages, etc, then looking at exports is a good place to start. But, it’s important to note that we always need to be careful with these kind of proxies. For example, if business advice boosts domestic sales at supported firms, we need to ask whether these sales are simply at the expense of other firms nearby. Good for the supported firm, but not so good for the unsupported!

Some other outcomes might be of interest in their own right, even if they aren’t directly related to local economic growth. For example, some of the reports in our evidence review on estate renewal looked at the impacts on crime and health and wellbeing. Finally, there are some indicators – such as house prices – where we might be directly interested (because the distributional effects of the policy might depend on house price change; or because local taxation depends on house prices) but where they also act as indirect indicators for local economic growth.

If you’re interested in exploring further, you can find the breakdown for each policy on the relevant evidence review page.