Dr. Peter Howley


I have worked as an economist for an agricultural/rural development agency in Galway, Ireland (Teagasc), a Lecturer and then subsequently Senior Lecturer in Economics within the Environment Department at the University of York. I took up a position as an Associate Professor in the Economics Division at the University of Leeds in May 2018. While an economist by training, my research is eclectic and interdiscplinary. I typically combine the tools and techniques commonly employed by economists with insights from across the social sciences such as in the fields of psychology, sociology, political science and geography. This has led to a diverse and ever-evolving stream of research (see some examples below) featuring in a range of high-impact journals across the social sciences including American Journal of Agricultural EconomicsJournal of Economic Behavior and Organisation, Land EconomicsSocial Science and MedicineEnvironment and Planning A, Work, Employment and SocietyEcological Economics, Journal of Agricultural Economics and Journal of Rural Studies as well as research income from, among others, the BBSRC, Nuffield Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland). I also supervise a significant number of postdoctoral and PhD researchers working on a diverse range of topics worldwide.

Research interests

In recent times much of my focus has been on the 'economics of happiness'. The premise of this work is based on the idea that focusing on income and by extension economic growth will give a very incomplete picture of welfare and a desire to provide policy relevant advice when it comes to enhancing societal well-being. My work in this area typically involves combining large annual household surveys (e.g. the UKHLS) with a diverse array of environmental datasets capturing, amongst other things, neighbourhood measures of deprivation (income, local labour market conditions etc.), air quality and ethnic diversity. I then develop panel-data models often coupled with quasi-experimental methods in order to explore the influence of factors such as immigrationdietair pollutionhealth and social capital for people’s self-reported or subjective well-being as well as the role of status concerns (e.g. how we compare to relevant others).  Of particular relevance in the current political climate, I lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers on a project funded by the Nuffield foundation concerned with determining the relationship between immigration and people's self-reported well-being. Some of our initial findings are summarised here: https://theconversation.com/how-immigration-can-make-some-uk-born-residents-feel-worse-off-even-if-they-arent-new-research-122681.

Apart from a quest to better understand the factors that can improve our quality of life, my research in this area also uses perceived well-being as a framework to better understand people's behavior. This ranges from people's voting behavior in the UK referendum on EU membership to farmers reluctance to adopt certain efficiency-enhancing farm practices.

​I also have a keen interest in agricultural economics. My previous research in this area has illustrated the importance of considering non-monetary drivers such as non-pecuniary benefitsproductivist attitudes and risk aversion when seeking to understand farmers’ behaviour. Related to this work, I am currently a Co-I on an ambitious interdisciplinary project, I Know Food, funded by the Global Food Security Programme addressing the topic of food system resilience. Within this project, I am looking at, among other things, the application of key insights from social psychology and behavioural economics in encouraging (nudging) conservation farm practices and technology uptake. Finally, I have worked on a number of issues in the environmental and resource economics domain. This includes the effect of weather on crime, the valuation of environmental goods and services and the determinants of pro-environmental behaviour. While I principally use quantitative methods, I also dabble with qualitative research methods on various projects mostly led by talented postgraduate students.

​I currently supervise a number of PhD and postdoctoral researchers working on areas related to the work described above. I am interested in hearing from enthusiastic potential PhD students (or anyone else for that matter) interested in working in any of these areas. The funkier the idea the better!

Research funding: I have been involved in reserach grants totalling £4 million. My own individual component as PI or Co-I comes to £750k.

  • Howley, P. Moro, M., Heron, T. and Delaney, L. (£188,000) Immigration and well-being. Nuffield foundation. PI.
  • Sccarpa, R., Howley, P., Panzone, L. and Thankappan, S. (£29,000) Cost-effective supply chain for livestock in Ethopia. N8 Strategic pump priming, 2017-2018. Co-I.
  • Doherty, B., Christiansen, P., Ensor, J., Grieve, B., Halford, J., Heron, T., Howley, P., Ozanyan, K., Petrie, H., Pickett, K. and West, C. (£3.4m), IKnow Food, BBSRC, 2016-2020.Co-I
  • Howley, P. and McClean, C. ESRC PhD Studentship co-financed with Environment Department, (£51,000), 2014-2017. PI.
  • Doherty, B. et al. N8 Industry Innovation Forum (£27,000), 2015.
  • Howley, P. Offaly Local Development Authority (€30,000), 2012.
  • Howley, P., Buckley, C. and O Donoghue, C. (€88,000) Public attitudes towards water quality. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011-2012. PI.
  • Howley, P., Buckley, C. and O Donoghue, C. (€86,000), The drivers of river water quality. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011-2012. PI.

Current postdoctoral supervision

10 selected recent (within last 4 years) journal papers – see CV (44 in total) for complete list

Howley, P. and Ocean, N. (2020) Doing more with less: Leveraging social norms and status concerns in encouraging conservation farm practices.  Land Economics In press (3* ABS). Available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=3439994.

Howley, P., Waqas, M., Moro, M., Delaney, L. and Heron, T. (2019) It's not all about the economy stupid! Immigration and self-reported well-being in England. Work, Employment and Society, In press: https://doi.org/10.1177/0950017019866643 (4* ABS, A  ABDC).

Ocean, N., Howley, P. and Ensor, J. (2019) Lettuce Be Happy: A longitudinal UK Study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being, Social Science and Medicine, 335-345 (4* ABS).

Truilijo, J. and Howley, P. (2019) The effect of weather on crime in a 'Torrid' Urban Zone. Environment and Behaviour. In press: https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916519878213

Marr, E. and Howley, P. (2019) The accidental environmentalists: factors affecting farmer’s adoption of pro-environmental activities in England and Ontario. Journal of Rural Studies, 68, 1000-111 (3* ABS).

Howley, P. (2017) Less money or better health? Evaluating individuals’ willingness to make trade-offs using life satisfaction data. Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation, 135-53-65 (3* ABS, A* ABDC).

Howley, P., Dillon, E., Heanue, K. and Meredith, D. (2017) Worth the risk? The behavioural path to well-being. Journal of Agricultural Economics 68, 534-552 (3* ABS, A  ABDC).

Howley, P., O Neill, S. and Atkinson, R. (2015) Who needs good neighbours? Environment and Planning A, 47, 939-956 (4* ABS, A* ABDC).

Howley, P. (2015) The happy farmer: the effect of nonpecuniary benefits on behaviour. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 97, 1072-1096 (3* ABS, A* ABDC).

Howley, P., Buckley, C., Donoghue, C. and Ryan, M. (2015) Explaining the economic ‘irrationality’ of farmers’ land use behaviour: the role of productivist attitudes and non-pecuniary benefits. Ecological Economics, 109, 186-193 (3* ABS, A  ABDC).

Invited resubmissions

Howley, P. and Knight, S. (2020) Staying down with the Joneses: Neighbourhood differences in the well-being effects of unemployment. Revise and Resubmit at Work, Employment and Society (4* ABS). Available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3184844

Selected recent working papers under review

Howley, P. and Waqas, M. (2020) National identity and Brexit. Available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3464210

Howley, P. Waqas, M. and Ocean, N. (2019) Open minds, open borders: Immigration and the mental well-being of natives. Available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3321720

Ocean, N. and Howley, P. (2019) Using prospect theory to improve the design of agricultural subsidy schemes. Available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3432955.   



My research relating to the role of neighbouring, diet and air pollution for mental well-being has featured widely in the media, e.g. BBC radio, The Times, Guardian and The Conversation.

Recent blog posts:

How immigration can make some UK-born residents feel worse off even if they aren’t: - new research: https://theconversation.com/how-immigration-can-make-some-uk-born-residents-feel-worse-off-even-if-they-arent-new-research-122681: September 6th 2019 

Eating more fruits and vegetables linked to better mental well-being: https://theconversation.com/eating-more-fruit-and-vegetables-linked-to-better-mental-well-being-new-study-111211: Feb 7th 2019 

Air pollution may be affecting how happy you are: https://theconversation.com/air-pollution-may-be-affecting-how-happy-you-are-110470:  Jan 30th 2019


Student education

I have substantive experience developing and teaching a wide variety of modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate level including Applied Economics, Environmental Economics, Environmental Valuation, Resource Economics and Research Methods. Here at Leeds I currently teach a second year Reserach Methods module and contribute to a first year Economic Controversies module. In addition to teaching I also supervise a significant number of PhD candidates working on a diverse range of topics worldwide (see below for more details). 

PhD Students


  • Eric Marr: Food Production or Biodiversity Protection? Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship. Completed September 2018.
  • Xiaowen Wang (co-supervised with Murray Rudd) Pharmaceuticals and Personal care Products in the Environment in China. Completed September 2016.
  • Jennifer Chapman (co-supervisor with Alistair Boxall): Assessment of socio-economic and ecological impacts of veterinary drugs in the environment. Funded by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Completed June 2019.


  • Fari Aftab (co-supervisor with David Spencer and Juliane Scheffel). The economic and social integration of migrants in the UK 
  • Rushi Chen (co-supervisor with Effie Kesidou). Renewable erngy and GDP growth in China
  • Karine Rassool (co-supervisor with Bryce Beukers-Stewart): Social, economic and cultural value of the fisheries sector in the Seychelles.
  • Juan C. Trujillo: Extreme weather events, health and well-being. Funded by the Economic Development, Institutions, and Public Policies for the Progress of the Colombian Caribbean.
  • Sarah Knight (co-supervisor with Colin McClean): Environmental amenities and well-being. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council