Q + A with Leon Iusitini

In 2013, Leon completed a Master of Arts degree at AUT through the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Faculty of Culture and Society. He then joined NZWRI in April of 2017, when his enrolment in his doctoral studies officially began. Before joining NZWRI, he was (and remains) employed as a researcher in the Centre for Pacific Health and Development Research within the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences.  When asked to fill in the blanks: "Economics is ___, ___ and ___ ", here is what he said:

Economics is a useful tool for finding out things about the world including about people, proposes stories (‘models’) that shed light on the real world, and can be fruitfully applied to a wide range of human behaviours and life outcomes.

1.   When and why did you decide that you wanted a career in Economics?

I sort of fell into economics. I have a strong research interest in the intergenerational transmission of socio-economic advantage, and was familiar with the sociological literature on this topic. I planned to do a PhD in this area from a sociological perspective, but for a variety of reasons I ended up looking at the topic through an economics lens, by investigating intergenerational income mobility in New Zealand for my PhD, which I began in 2017.

2.   Describe one of your recent research projects.

I’ve been using census data linked over time to quantify and explain intergenerational income mobility. Essentially, I compare the incomes of parents with those of their grown-up offspring, as reported in the census. If offspring’s incomes are highly associated with those of their parents, we may conclude that there is little intergenerational mobility in income (parents’ income strongly predicts their adult children’s income). If the association is weak, we may conclude that mobility is high.

3.   Describe the key results/main findings.

I’m still completing my PhD, but last year I presented preliminary results at a conference. The key result was that intergenerational mobility between son-father pairs in New Zealand appears to be relatively high by international standards, placing New Zealand towards the more-mobile end of the cross-national spectrum, nearer to the Nordic countries and further from the least-mobile countries, most notably the US. However, there are all sorts of caveats to this result given the limitations of the census data and the difficulties of making cross-country comparisons given differences in data and methods.

4.   What makes this research impactful?

This research may have implications for equality of opportunity in New Zealand, an important concern for many New Zealanders. With further analyses of the census data and other datasets, I hope to understand what the underlying drivers are of intergenerational mobility, why some people climb to a higher rung on the income ladder than their parents did, and why others descend lower than their parents. These analyses may provide insights that are useful for public policy.

5.   What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I’m 38 years old, but in my mind I’m 70: I enjoy crosswords, gardening, and Werther’s Originals. I spend my spare time studying, playing with my two young sons, and studying. When I’m not doings those things, I study.

Further information

To find out more about Leon Iusitini, his extended research expertise and academic career, please visit his academic profile.

Academic Profile