Q + A with Livvy Mitchell

Livvy Mitchell joined NZWRI in 2018 as the Institute Administrator and has also taken on research assistant responsibilities following her economics studies.

When asking Livvy to fill in the blanks: "Economics is ___, ___ and ___", she said:

Economics is underrated by students, challenging yet rewarding and a subject where the more you learn, the less you know.

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

Well, throughout my early high school years, I actually wanted to be an orthodontist! But after participating in the Young Enterprise Scheme in Year 12 at St Mary's College Wellington, I took a real liking to business and, in particular, economics. So, I forwent orthodontics (likely in Otago) and instead enrolled in a Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Laws at AUT. My law studies were short-lived as I was sold by the third-year applied econometrics paper and have never looked back.

2. Describe one of your recent research projects.

I have recently completed my Master's thesis entitled "A policy evaluation of home detention sentencing: Evidence from New Zealand". In my thesis, I identify the causal effect of home detention on the recidivism rate and labour market participation of first-time offenders. My topic was motivated by New Zealand's 2007 sentencing reform where home detention was enacted to address New Zealand's prison overpopulation issue and to introduce more cost-effective sentencing options.

3. Describe the key results/main findings.

Using Statistics New Zealand's Integrated Data Infrastructure, I find that home detention has no effect on first-time offenders' reoffending rates (one, two or five years from the date of sentencing), relative to short-term imprisonment, community detention or intensive supervision sentences. I also show that home detention has no impact on average employment rates, average wage and salary earnings or average benefit receipt, relative to the other three sentences.

4. What makes this research impactful?

My results contribute to the New Zealand policy debate about the effectiveness of home detention as a rehabilitative and corrective criminal justice sanction. While home detention lowers prison populations and presents fiscal cost-savings, my results provide little justification for promoting home detention as a means for reducing crime or improving first-time offenders' short-term or long-term labour market positions. In other words, NZ policymakers should be aware that the theorised benefits of home detention on offender outcomes are not realised in practice.

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

'Spare time' is a luxury that I have only just re-discovered since submitting my thesis! I enjoy playing the piano, reading crime fiction and spending time with my friends and family. I also enjoy going to the gym and am currently trying (emphasis on trying) to get into running.

Livvy Mitchell