Published Papers


Top of the Class: The Importance of Ordinal Rank (Forthcoming Review of Economic Studies)

Joint with Felix Weinhardt (DIW-Berlin). It estimates the importance of a student's rank among their classmates during primary school on their investments and actions during secondary school. NBER Working Paper w24958  (2018) CESifo Working Paper WP4815 (2014)



Why Unions Survive: Understanding How Unions Overcome The Free-Rider Problem (Journal of Labor Economics, CESifo Working Paper)

I document the continued demand for unions in regions where right-to-work legislation is enforced. It shows that the union acting as a form of legal insurance for its members maintains the private  demand for it's services.


Predicted Grades

Minority Report: the impact of
predicted grades on university
admissions of disadvantaged groups
(2020 Education Economics; CEP Working Paper) ​

Joint with Gill Wyness we study the UK's university application system. We document that only 16 percent of predicted grades used in the application process are correct. We show disadvantaged students are significantly more likely to receive pessimistic grade predictions and that under-predicted candidates are more likely to enrol in courses for which they are over qualified.

UK HE Reforms

"The end of free college in England:
Implications for quality, enrolments, and equity” (Economics of Education Review 2019)

Joint with Gill Wyness (University College London) and Judith Scott Clayton. How have the reforms of the UK Higher Educational System, taking it from a low-fee low-aid system to a high-fee high-aid, impacted the sector in terms of quality, enrollment and access.  (NBER Working Paper)   


Paying Out? Crowding Out? The Globalisation of Higher Education (2017 Journal of Economic Geography)

Joint with Stephen Machin (London School of Economics). It estimates if there is a crowding-out or crowding-in effect from the very large increase in the number of international students at universities in the UK.

Mobile Phones

Ill communication: Mobile Phones and Student Performance (2016 Labour Economics)

Joint with Louis Philippe Beland. We estimate the impact of banning mobile phones in schools on student performance, finding large impact among previously low achieving students. This has received considerable media attention internationally and is forming the basis for English policy regarding phones in school.

Working Papers



"Class Rank and Long-run Outcomes” (Revise & Resubmit Review of Economics and Statistics)

Joint with Jeff Denning and Felix Weinhardt we contribute to the rank literature in three ways; 1) conceptually - documenting new threats and solutions for identification; 2) empirically - estimating long run effects on earnings; 3)  practically - implications for optimal classroom composition and school choice. 

NBER Working Paper 27468   IZA Working Paper



"Testing Means Tested Aid” (Revise & Resubmit JOLE)

Joint with Gill Wyness (University College London) we examine the impact of a unique means tested financial aid progam on undergraduate outcomes. We argue that various features of the program mean that we can identify the impact of aid on the intensive margin, rather than the extensive margin. (CESifo Working Paper



"Who Teaches the Teachers? A RCT of Peer-To-Peer Observation and Feedback in 181 Schools” (Revise & Resubmit Economics of Education Review)

Joint with Gill Wyness and Felix Weinhardt we use a RCT to estimate the  impact of a widely used teacher peer-to-peer training program. We find a meaningful zero average effect. This masks a significant heterogeneity, with positive (negative) effects in large (small) schools, which we explore possible mechanisms.  (IZA Working Paper

Student Mismatch 

"Matching in the Dark? Inequalities in student to degree match ” (Revise & Resubmit Journal of Labour Economics)

Joint with Stuart Campbell, Lindsey Macmillan, and Gill Wyness we create a new continuous measure of mismatch between student quality and university quality using linked administrative data from schools, universities and tax authorities. Students from lower socio-economic groups, and females systematically undermatch for both measures across the entire distribution of achievement, (CEPEO Working Paper

Other work in progress

“Decentralization of the English teacher labor market” joint with Simon Burgess (Bristol University) and Ellen Greaves (Institute for Fiscal Studies). 

Murphy, R. J.R. Stansfield and G. Wyness “Teaching to the Test: The Long Run Impacts of Standardized Testing on Student Outcomes”

“Atheism and Economic Prosperity: The long run impacts of a national ban on religions” joint with Telhaj, Shqiponja (University of Sussex)

“Teacher Unionisation in the UK” a book chapter with Peter Dolton (University of Sussex)


Green, F., Machin, S., Murphy, R., and Zhu, Y. (2012) “The Changing Economic Advantage from Private Schools” Economica, Vol.79, No.316, pp.658 – 679


Green, F., Machin, S., Murphy, R., and Zhu, Y. (2008) “Competition for private and state school teachers” Journal of Education and Work, Vol. 21, No.5, pp. 383-404


Murphy, R. (2014) “The Causes and Consequences of the Growth in International Students in Higher Education” Book Chapter: From Mobility of Students to Mobility of High-Skilled, Editors: Marcel Gérard and Silke Uebelmesser. Series: CESifo Seminar Series, MIT Press, pp.257-286

Policy Papers

Murphy, R. (2013) “Testing Teachers: What works best for teacher evaluation and appraisal”, The Sutton Trust


Murphy, R. (2011) “Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK”, The Sutton Trust


Machin, S. and R. Murphy (2010) “The social composition and future earnings of postgraduates”, Postgraduate Review


Machin, S., R. Murphy, and Z. Soobedar (2010) “Differences in the labour market gains from qualifications” National Equality Panel Report


Machin, S., R. Murphy, and Z. Soobedar (2010) “Differences in labour market gains from higher education participation” National Equality Panel Report

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