Social Research

Some of my published research papers in the field of social policy. I guess it’s nice to know I did something with those First Class Honours and Masters degrees after all.

Fertility in Australia: can we afford to keep the Government out of the bedroom? Australian Social Policy 2001-02 [full article]

…How best to enhance the capabilities of our future population has been the subject of considerable debate. Immigration policies have undergone a marked shift in response. An increased emphasis is now placed on attracting highly skilled young people who can offer marketable skills and experience, with a concomitant decrease in the numbers entering through family reunion categories, who are not required to demonstrate these characteristics.
However, similar changes in our thinking around the policies that affect fertility – the other side of the population coin – have not yet eventuated. Discussions of the issue thus far have tended to be limited to a general lament on fertility decline, with little government policy action evident…

‘The ultimate vote of confidence’. Fertility rates and economic conditions in Australia, 1976-2000. Australian Social Policy 2002-03 [full article]

The arguments presented in this paper are that in Australia over the past 25 years:

  • Changes in the prevalent economic conditions appear to be associated with changes in the fertility rate. While the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in Australia has been trending downwards over the past 25 years, years of negative economic growth are associated with particularly pronounced declines. Conversely, when strong and sustained economic growth is observed, a slower rate of decline in the TFR is also observed. The tail end of periods of sustained economic growth appears to correspond to some increases in the TFR.
  • Sharp spikes in TFR follow the drops associated with depressed economic conditions. These may, in effect, be the response to a previous delay in births relating to an economic downturn. As such, they can be thought of as ‘mini baby booms’.
  • Overall, Australia’s TFR is affected by those factors which appear to be influencing most developed western nations, and is generally trending downwards as a result. However, the magnitude of ‘waves’ within this overall trend appears to bear some relationship to macroeconomic conditions.

Regression modelling highlights the role that predicted economic conditions may play…

‘More than just play dough’ – a preliminary assessment of the contribution of child care to the Australian economy. Australian Social Policy 2004 [full article]

…it is estimated that the return on the Australian Government investment in child care is substantial. The estimates presented here put this return at eight times the value of the expenditure allocated to it. These benefits far outweigh the private returns for parents on their own child care expenditure, although at around $3 of disposable income for every private dollar spent, these returns are also considerable. The returns to the Government’s ‘bottom line’, in terms of increased taxation revenue and reduced social assistance outlays alone, are estimated at $1.86 per dollar spent-that is, child care pays for itself nearly two times over, before any of its other advantages for children and families are even considered…

Can Magic Bullets Hurt You? NGOs and governance in a globalised social welfare world. A Case Study of Tajikistan. Australian National University Public Policy Discussion Paper No. 92, 2005 [full paper]

Abstract: This paper establishes some of the criticisms which have been made of the NGO sector in international development, focussing on the issue of governance. It then examines to what extent these criticisms appear to be true for Tajikistan. The conclusion is that many of the shortcomings of the sector generally are, indeed, evident in this country. Despite this, there are a number of factors which indicate that a more positive approach to aid and development in the country could be realised. Some recommendations towards this end are made. As the problems of Tajikistan are by no means unique, it is likely that this conclusion also has application in other countries in similar circumstances and stages of development.


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