I’m studying for my PhD in Economics in ISER; Institute for Social and Economic Research. I am mostly interested in inequality; inequality is one of the most crucial problems of our century so I focus on inequality to try to look at whether something can be done in order to stop increasing inequality especially in terms of public policies.
My research is mostly quantitative. I try to look at policies and whether they have any effect on trying to address inequality, especially for taxes. The main instrument to tackle inequality is taxation. You can decide who to tax, so you can tax the rich more and the poor less to give the poor some comfort. But then the rich have instruments to avoid taxes. We have to find a way to make sure they are going to pay. So my research is mostly trying to estimate the effects of some policies. For instance, I am now focusing on Italy where you are taxed by Municipality from town to town. So I am studying when a Municipality says to tax the rich more, whether they move to another Municipality in order to avoid this increase in taxation.
Since I was very young, I always had an interest in music and art going against the rich – trying to understand the dynamics and so on. Then I read a book that convinced me that inequality was a very important problem for Economics. This book started studying inequality in a period where nobody was interested in inequality. Now, almost everyone talks about inequality and policy makers. But this professor started to study inequality in the 70s when no-one, even academic journals, cared about inequality. So I read this book when I was quite young and I said ‘oh this is really fascinating, I want to do this.
I think all research should have the goal to find solutions. You provide some scientific evidence that something is good or bad but then the ultimate goal is to provide advice to policy makers in order to implement the policy. So far, my main goals were focused on taxation; there are academics like me, but better than me, that provide even stronger evidence. It is nice that nowadays people talk about inequality and taxation. Some years ago, Barack Obama in a famous discourse said; ‘inequality is the most serious problem of this century’; we should find a way to tackle inequality. The pope many years ago said inequality is a huge problem. Then the goal of researchers is to provide some evidence for policy makers.
I think that Essex is one of the best places if you have the ambition to tackle inequality and to provide some evidence to policy makers and so on, because for research it is one of the best departments in England, even in Europe in general. Essex provides you with all the instruments to succeed in your field and also the research environment and the resources available are very good. So Essex was my first choice and I was super happy when I was accepted for a PhD here.
Studying for a PhD can be hard. You can spend 10 hours per day working. Some days I went to bed with a terrible headache, but so far I am quite happy because this was my choice and even if you spent two weeks just working on the data on the computer, when you find some results it compensates all your hard work. So far I am not struggling, I’m very happy with my experience. I would suggest it to anyone that is motivated to do this to do a PhD here.
What keeps me motivated is my ambition. It feels like I have this mission to find some evidence. I feel that at the end of the day, after all the hard work, I will be compensated with some evidence; it’s a kind of mission. If you have a mission and you are motivated it is not a big deal, you just keep going.