Joel Hernandez

Policy Analyst

Policy Analyst Joel joined The New Zealand Initiative after completing his Master’s in Economics at Victoria University where his work focused on productivity, labour economics and game theory. Before this, he completed a Bachelor of Science from the University of Otago, majoring in Microbiology.

Currently, Joel is working on education research using data from Statistic’s New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

Latest report:
In Fairness to our Schools: Better measures for better outcomes (2019)
Research Note: Tomorrow’s Schools: Data and evidence (2019)


Phone: +64 4 499 0790


Recent Work

Research note Tomorrows Schools Data and Evidence cover5

Research note: Tomorrow’s Schools: Data and evidence

A comprehensive and year-long econometric analysis of data for 400,000 students undertaken by The New Zealand Initiative reveals there are no significant differences in school performance between schools of different deciles. Adjusted for the different student populations they serve, the vast majority of New Zealand’s secondary schools create the education outcomes we would expect from them. This finding calls into question the assertion of the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce, led by Bali Haque, which claimed that “quality of our schools... Read more

Joel Hernandez
8 April, 2019

News that isn’t news

Scroll down your news feed, what do you see? Trump’s latest dumb tweet, an update on the crisis in Venezuela, maybe something on Brexit? Unless you’re on the Economist, probably not. If you jump on any mainstream news website, you’re more likely to see something about the latest drama on Married at First Sight (MAFS), unruly tourists, or the latest limited-edition Cadbury or Whittaker’s chocolate bar. Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
1 March, 2019
classroom and blackboard

Empowering students with better information

Jake is a 16-year-old student with NCEA level 1 who has just left school. His friends and family tell him “more education is always better; graduates earn more on average than non-graduates”. Jake is sick of school, but he is being pressured by his family to gain level 2 and 3 through tertiary study. He does not know whom to believe, or what to do next. Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
1 February, 2019

Data driving education change

New Zealand is world leading in many aspects, most notably for Sir Edmund Hillary’s triumph on Mt Everest, Ernest Rutherford’s breakthrough in nuclear physics, and women’s suffrage. We can also be proud of leading the world in integrated data, a process that combines data from different sources and displays results in a unified view to users. Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) in 2011 started integrating data from all government agencies in New Zealand in what is now called the Integrated Data... Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
14 December, 2018

The One-Trillion Tree Empire

New Zealand was never home to a great empire for one simple reason. We don’t have enough trees. Historians have often credited Rome’s massive deforestation of the Mediterranean to its success as an empire. During Rome’s five centuries of power, it used wood and coal for everything from housing to fuel to its massive military. At one point, the Roman Empire had a population of 56.8 million people. Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
16 November, 2018
School student

Showing Up Is Half The Battle

Students who skip school are more likely to experience adverse life outcomes. This is a fact. But it is not the complete story. Research from the Ministry of Education has found that school truancy is a strong predictor of domestic violence, criminal behaviour, substance abuse, suicidal risk and unemployment. The statistics and research are not reassuring. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether truancy is the cause of adverse life outcomes or just another adverse life outcome caused by unobserved background characteristics... Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
28 September, 2018

Crazy Rich Ministries

You can’t get more lavish than washing down some white gold caviar with Moet champagne while partying on top of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. That’s how the rich and famous celebrated in Crazy Rich Asians, the latest blockbuster to hit theatres. Well, you might. Especially, if you were one of the delegates at the Ministry of Justice summit in Porirua, or at either of the Ministry of Education summits in Auckland or Christchurch. Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
21 September, 2018

The burger economy

Gluttony. The two weeks since Wellington on a Plate (WOAP) began have been glorious gluttony. As Chief Burger Officer (CBO) of The New Zealand Initiative I was tasked with tasting and reviewing a sample of the multitude of burgers for Burger Wellington as well as investigate the burger economy. Across all my years of WOAP and Burger Wellington, this year has been the best, not because of the overall quality of burgers I ate, but because of my experience and... Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
24 August, 2018
Wellington lambton quay

Creatures of habit

People have always said, we are creatures of habit. Every day we wake up at the same time, have the same breakfast, go to the same workplace, eat out at the same restaurants and order the same meals. We are so predictable that our smartphones can even alert us when to leave for work and when to head to the restaurant for dinner without us setting any notifications. Thanks Google. Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
20 July, 2018
Classroom student

A better way to measure school effectiveness

You should not compare apples with oranges. But what about schools? As it turns out, comparing schools with schools can be just as problematic. School composition can vary significantly between different deciles and within the same decile. Some of these differences include prior student academic achievement, the student’s parents’ level of education, and the student’s parents’ average income. We know from the vast amounts of education research that these student characteristics (which are outside the control of the school) are... Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
13 July, 2018
Hollywood sign

Film subsidies – worth it?

After missing my chance to meet Scarlett Johansson last year, I was distraught and confused over the weekend as I read the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) findings and conclusion on film subsidies in New Zealand. In three reviews commissioned by MBIE, the reports concluded that without the film subsidies (New Zealand Screen Production Grants), the New Zealand film industry would disappear. I was distraught because my chances of meeting Scar-Jo would fall to almost zero without the... Read more

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
6 July, 2018

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