Tue, Oct 15, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Trio win Nobel economics prize for poverty fight

INEQUALITY:The prize went to Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer for their work to fight a rapid rise in income disparity


From left, images of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, winners of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, are displayed at a news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Three economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University were yesterday awarded this year’s Nobel prize for their research into how to move people out of poverty.

MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee, a 58-year-old who was born in India, and his wife, Esther Duflo, who was born in France in 1972, shared the prize with Harvard’s Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”

“The research conducted by this year’s laureates has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. “In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research.”

The academy’s decision to honor work dedicated to fighting poverty, which it said is among today’s most “urgent issues,” comes as inequality grows into one of the most widely debated topics in the field of economics amid a rapid rise in income disparity over the past decades.

Duflo is the second woman and the youngest ever to win the economics prize, which has existed for half a century.

She received her doctorate from MIT. In 2010, she won the John Bates Clark medal, after being identified as the economist under the age of 40 who contributed most to the profession.

“Our goal is to make sure the fight against poverty is based on scientific evidence,” Duflo said in a Web cast phone call with journalists. “It starts from the idea that often the poor are reduced to caricatures, and often even people who try to help them don’t actually understand the deep roots of the problems they are addressing.”

The academy said the three laureates helped shape a new approach to fighting poverty by splitting the issue into smaller and more manageable questions, bringing field experiments into the mix and studying productivity levels within developing countries.

Incorporating contract theory and behavioral economics, their research has included how to improve school results in Kenya and India, studies on micro financing, price sensitivity to healthcare costs and lifting vaccination rates, helping hundreds of millions of people.

Kremer has a doctorate from Harvard and is the Gates professor of developing societies at the university. He has helped develop the advance market commitment for vaccines, a program to stimulate private investment and distribution in the developing world.

In 2010, he was the founding scientific director of development innovation ventures at US Agency for International Development.

Banerjee, who also received his doctorate from Harvard, is now the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT.

In 2003, he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, along with Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan. He is the author of four books, including Poor Economics, which he wrote with Duflo.

Duflo said receiving the prize was “humbling,” in part because of her age.

The award is a reflection of “incredible collective work” and the three winners represent “hundreds of researchers who are part of a network that work on global poverty,” she said.

Last year’s prize went to William Nordhaus of Yale University and Paul Romer of the Stern School of Business in New York for bringing long-term thinking on climate issues and technological innovation into the field of economics.

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