Utsa Banerjee is a visiting researcher at WISERD at Cardiff University, who will be working alongside the ADR Wales Skills and Employability research theme. Utsa is a final year PhD student at Lancaster University and a recipient of ESRC Case funding. She has also worked as a student consultant at OXFAM, as a part of her PhD research. Here Utsa describes her background and her pathway to taking up the role at ADR Wales.

I’m a final year PhD student in the Department of Economics at Lancaster University. I joined the PhD program through an ESRC scholarship which has a provision for students to engage in a 3- 6-month internship or academic exchange program. I was always keen on taking advantage of this opportunity and was on the lookout for organisations where I could work with experts on interesting datasets that would enhance not only my empirical skills, but also give me a real-world experience of policy-relevant research.

I came across WISERD and made a formal research proposal with support from the Co-director, Rhys Davies, which was then approved by the WISERD committee. I also had to apply for ESRC internship funding, which is extremely competitive. With the research proposal and endorsements from my supervisors from Lancaster University, I made the final ESRC application and was delighted to be selected.

Research interests

I’m an applied microeconomist with research interests in development, education and gender studies. My research mainly focuses on the effects of various microeconomic policies on gender gap in employment, education of children and financial inclusion of marginalised groups. The first chapter of my thesis looks at the impact of having all-women police stations in India on formal employment and firm productivities. My second chapter is on the effects of a free trade agreement on female employment in Chile. I have presented these chapters at multiple international conferences. I have also jointly received the Lancaster University Management School PUMP Prime Grant for a project titled “Gender Reform and Firm Performance” with Dr. Pavel Chakraborty. With this grant we have designed a novel methodology, both qualitative and quantitative, to measure the impact of having more female board members on firm performance over time in India. This project throws light on the inclusion of women in senior positions within organisations and the resulting welfare gains in developing economies.

Gaining new experience

At WISERD and ADR Wales, I will be working primarily on the analysis of data collected from Careers Wales Career Check Survey. The survey is a diagnostic tool used by Career Advisors within years 10 and 11 of Key Stage 4 to identify those children who are in most need of their support. Specifically, I am studying the effects of career guidance at Key Stage 5 and the pathway to non-compulsory education among Welsh pupils. I investigate how Career Check advisors select pupils based on various student and household characteristics and how the intervention finally translates into A-level performance and other labour market outcomes. I have found this unique dataset to be immensely interesting, and it has extensive relevance in the domain of education and development economics. Being fully embedded at the WISERD centre, I regularly participate at the WISERD seminars, which is particularly valuable as it keeps me updated with the various areas of research that are being undertaken here. Interacting with the researchers, learning empirical techniques and the overall experience is not only enjoyable, but also it adds immense value to my career trajectory.

Utsa is part of the ADR Wales Skills and Employability research programme based at WISERD at Cardiff University. Find out more about the team’s research here.