I found that, as workers feel more concerned that they might be negatively affected by automation, they don’t necessarily support more redistribution. However, this varies quite a lot depending on who you ask and how you present the issue of automation.Karen Jeffrey
07 July 2021
Karen 'over the moon' after passing PhD
King’s student Karen Jeffrey is already looking forward to putting her analytical skills to good use with the NHS after successfully passing her PhD viva.
Having submitted her thesis earlier this year, Karen appeared before a panel at her ‘viva voce', a rigorous examination from senior academics, and received the news on 2 July that she had been successful.
Karen, a member of the Department of Political Economy, said she was “over the moon” to have passed and was now looking forward to using the skills gained during her studies to improve health outcomes as an intelligence analyst with the NHS.
She said: “When I first submitted my thesis, I actually felt a little bit sad that my time at King’s was coming to an end. I’ve really enjoyed the PhD and have felt very lucky to have ended up in the Department of Political Economy – it’s been such a supportive and welcoming environment to work in.
“I couldn’t quite take in that I had passed the viva at first but now I’m absolutely over the moon.”
Automation and redistributive policies were the focus of Karen’s PhD thesis, with an emphasis on understanding whether voters are likely to support redistributive policies (such as higher corporation taxes or a universal basic income) if more workers lose their jobs or experience negative impacts on their wages as a result of automation.
Her work involved collecting data from thousands of people in the UK and USA to build a picture which she hopes might help policy makers determine how best to respond to increasing automation.
Karen said: “I found that, as workers feel more concerned that they might be negatively affected by automation, they don’t necessarily support more redistribution. However, this varies quite a lot depending on who you ask and how you present the issue of automation.
“In one study in the UK, I find that if individuals are presented with information that stresses that wealthy business owners and shareholders will benefit from automation while ordinary workers lose out, individuals become significantly more likely to view growth in automation-induced inequality as unfair, and in turn, become more likely to support redistributive policies.
“In another study carried out in the US, I find that Republican voters tend to oppose redistributive policies unless they have experienced losing their jobs or having their wages cut during the Covid pandemic.”
Karen said she was “extremely grateful” to her PhD supervisors, Dr Konstantinos Matakos and Professor Amrita Dhillon, and for all the advice and guidance received from members of the school and her fellow PhD candidates during her studies.