LISS Research Assistant Internship – Mental health and changes to the generosity of Universal Credit: a quasi-experimental study.

A crucial question for both policy and academic debates is the impact of welfare benefit changes on mental health/wellbeing. Academically, interest in this field is high– there have been a number of recent international reviews (e.g. Thomson et al 2022,, and further publications attract considerable interest, particularly if they are stronger methodologically than some of the existing literature. In terms of impact, it is crucial to continue scrutinising the effect of Government decisions – even when we know the link between income and mental health/wellbeing in general, there is considerable power in demonstrating the impacts of specific policies. An opportunity for high-impact quasi-experimental research comes from recent policy changes in response to Covid-19,where Universal Credit (but not legacy benefit) claimants were given an additional £20/week in April 2020, which was later removed in October 2021. In this project, you will evaluate the impact of these changes on mental health/wellbeing using difference-in-difference and matching techniques. This will use two datasets: (1) the Family Resources Survey run by the Office for National Statistics, including 2019-20,2020-21 (just-released) and 2021-22 wave (to be released in June 2023); and (2) the Welfare at a (Social) Distance survey, a large (n=7k) survey of benefit claimants funded by the ESRC as part of their rapid response to COVID-19,which I coordinated (see In both cases, the outcome measures include both mental health disabilities and some/all of the ONS Measures of National Wellbeing.

There are two sets of tasks to be undertaken by the student, with my support. (1) To do the descriptive and inferential analyses, and to produce the required tables/figures for the published paper. (2) To write the initial draft of the paper, and also to write a short (700-1000 word) blog post summarising the findings for a lay audience (to be submitted to e.g. the Conversation, LSE Politics & Policy, Welfare at a (Social) Distance and/or Centre for Society & Mental Health blogs). To support this, the student will have access to my literature review on the link between welfare benefit changes and mental health/wellbeing – the student will need to acquaint themselves with the findings and methodological debates, but will not have to contribute to the literature review itself.

Expertise and experience needed by the student:
Skilled in using Stata. Some knowledge of methods for estimating causal effects from quantitative social data (much as skills development will be supported during the internship). Knowledge of – or failing that, at least an interest in – research on the effects of welfare policies. Ability to quickly familiarise themselves with a new field/dataset (if needed). Motivated to produce a high-quality, impactful output within the 13 weeks.

For more information and how to apply please contact Closing date for expressions of interest is 11th January 2023.