Nobel Prize in Economics won by Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer for fighting poverty - live updates

Last modified: 02: 01 PM GMT+0

Esther Duflo becomes second woman to win the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences, with Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer also recognised for their research alleviating poverty


Time for a recap, as the “Nobel season” comes to an end.

Three economists have won the biggest prize in economics for their work into the causes of poverty, including only the second-ever female winner.

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been handed to Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michael Kremer of Harvard.

All three were recognised for their “experiment-based approach” to tackling global poverty, and using randomised control trials to discover which educational outcomes or child health initiatives actually work.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences declared:

The Laureates’ research findings – and those of the researchers following in their footsteps – have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice. As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefitted from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools.

Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries.

This post explains how Kremer conducted pioneering work with Kenyan schools in the mid-1990s, which was further developed by Duflo and Banerjee.

This research showed how to raise vaccination rates and educational standards in schools, touching hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

Although not an official Nobel prize, the Economics Sciences award is massive recognition for academic achievement - and comes with 9 million Swedish krona (£720,000) to share.

French-born Esther Duflo said she was “deeply humbled” by the news - which makes her the youngest ever laureate, and the second woman after Elinor Ostrom a decade ago.

2019 Economic Sciences Laureate Esther Duflo, born in 1972, is the second woman and the youngest person to be awarded the Prize in Economic Sciences.#NobelFacts #NobelPrize

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019

Speaking by phone moments after wining the award, Duflo also called on the economics profession to treat female colleagues with more respect, saying:

We are a time when we are starting to realise in the profession that the way we conduct each other privately and publicly, is not conducive all the time to a very good environment for women.

Showing that it is possible for a women to succeed, and to be recognised for success, I hope will inspire many many other women to continue working, and many many other men to give them the respect they deserve, like every single human being.

Banerjee’s mother has also expressed her pride in her son’s work, using practical economics to tackle poverty.


Social media is abuzz with congratulations for today’s trio, from fellow academics.

Kaushik Basu, professor of economics at Cornell University, has hailed the creativity and impact of their work.

So thrilled by the Nobel Prize news this morning. Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer deserve congratulations for the creativity of their research and the high impact. Two of them—Abhijit and Esther—won the Infosys Prize earlier.

— Kaushik Basu (@kaushikcbasu) October 14, 2019

Wharton economics professor Katherine Milkman tweets that all three have helped reduce poverty.

I am so excited to wake up to the news that this year’s @NobelPrize went to extraordinary developmental economists making the world better through experiments. And Esther Duflo is particularly inspiring. Congratulations all!

— Katherine Milkman (@katy_milkman) October 14, 2019

Harvard assistant professor Peter Blair says Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer have all helped mentor academics in their field:

Congratulations to this year's Nobel Prize winners in Economics Abhijit Banerjee, Ester Duflo and Michael Kremer! Thank you for you work and your committment to mentoring a generation of development economists.

— Dr. Peter Q. Blair (@pqblair) October 14, 2019

Global development expert Cindy Huang has an example of how Duflo’s work has shaped policy:

Huge congratulations & respect for Esther Duflo. When I was helping on gender policy at the State Dept, we often looked to her research. Just one of many ways her research has shaped policy.

— Cindy Y Huang (@Cindy_Y_Huang) October 14, 2019

Full story: Economics Nobel prize won by academics for tackling poverty

Here’s my colleague Philip Inman on today’s award:

An undated handout photo made available by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee.
An undated handout photo made available by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Photograph: Massachusetts Institute of Technology/HANDOUT HANDOUT/EPA

The AFP have written a profile of Esther Duflo. Here’s a flavour:

Esther Duflo, one of three people awarded the Nobel Economics Prize on Monday, is a high-profile academic feted in the United States and her home country France for her hands-on approach to studying how people can escape the poverty trap.

The 46-year-old professor, the youngest ever winner of the economics prize and only the second woman to gain the accolade, had been widely tipped since she picked up the prestigious John Bates Clark medal in 2010 which is often a first step to the Nobel award.

But her age, gender and speciality - development economics - make her stand out among past recipients of the prize, who have traditionally been older, male and often American.

She won the award with Indian-born Abhijit Banerjee of the US and Michael Kremer of the US, all hailed by the jury “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.

Duflo is married to Banerjee, who was her doctorate supervisor, and both are professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The economist made her name conducting research on poor communities in India and Africa, seeking to weigh the impact of policies such as incentivising teachers to show up for work or measures to empower women.

Her tests, which have been likened to clinical trials for drugs, seek to identify and demonstrate which investments are worth making and have the biggest impact on the lives of the most deprived.

“Our vision of poverty is dominated by caricatures and cliches,” she told AFP in an interview in September 2017 while discussing the aim of her fieldwork and research as a professor at MIT in Boston.

“We need to understand the obstacles faced by the poorest and try to think about how we can help them move on,” she said.

Duflo is just as likely to be found out in the dusty and impoverished villages of northern India, where she has worked alongside local academics, as she is in the rarefied halls of US academia.

French economist Thomas Piketty, whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century examines the causes of inequality, has tweeted his congratulations:

Congratulations to Abhijit, Esther and Mike! Well deserved!

— Thomas Piketty (@PikettyLeMonde) October 14, 2019

Shobhini Mukerji of the South Asia branch of the Poverty Action Lab, in New Delhi (where Banerjee and Duflo conducted their work on poverty reduction) has welcomed the news.

Mukerji says (via AFP).

“This is huge for us.... India is where the seeds were sown for their research.”

Banerjee's mother: He's done good work, but should have told me!

Nirmala Banerjee
Nirmala Banerjee being interviewed by NDTV today Photograph: NDTV

Abhijit Banerjee’s mother, Nirmala is also an economist -- a former professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.

She’s told Indian news channel NDTV that her son’s focus is on practical economics.

“He has been trying to get economics away from the theoretical part, but using theory to understand the world as it is.

The way it works, the way poverty is, the way people handle poverty.”

However, Abhijit could be in hot water too, despite his success. His proud mother joked:

“I haven’t spoken to my son (since the award was announced) but I did speak to him last night. He did not mention this then. I will tell him off... he should have told me about it”.

In his defence, Nobel prize winners only get a few minutes notice.....


The randomised control trials (RCTs) at the heart of Duflo, Banerjee and Kramer’s work aren’t without critics.

Splitting people randomly into groups is meant to allow researchers to change one variable (free healthcare, better funded schools, mosquito nets) and see the effect.

Dr Shialaja Fennell, Senior Lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies at Cambridge University, cautions that RTCs shouldn’t be treated as gospel:

“It is good that the contribution of development economics has been recognised. However, it is important to note that experimental methods such [randomised controlled trials] RCTs and natural experiments, tend to estimate abstract efficacy instead of actual efficacy.

The difference between these two types of efficacy arises due to a false assumption that a ‘gold standard’ of perfect identification is possible from the evidence obtained from the experiment. The evidence is then taken at face-value without due regard to the possibility of conceptual or ethical concerns.”

This blog post, on Brookings, points out that RTCs are better at measuring private goods (you either have it, or you don’t), than public ones (say, the benefits of lower pollution).

This blog post, on Oxfam, warns that creating truly randomised groups can be very hard - if, for example, people of a certain religion aren’t happy to take part. Also, once you’ve created your trial groups, it takes skill to properly implement the test - otherwise external factors can ruin the evidence.


Back in 2011, Madeleine Bunting wrote about the importance of Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s work:

Duflo and Banerjee are most well known for their work through the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, known as J-Pal, which has pioneered the use of randomised controlled trials to find out what works in development. In less than a decade, they have worked with local partners in a wide range of countries on nearly 240 trials. As Duflo put it in a Ted lecture, much of development policy has until now been on a par with medieval medicine – doing things based on habit, a hunch or misplaced belief – and she once likened development interventions as rather like using leeches. She maintains that she can take the “guesswork out of policy making”.

Some don’t like the ethics of handing out bednets in one village and not the next, but Duflo and Banerjee’s argument is that we need to know what works and why, rather than the scattergun assumptions we have relied on up to now. Should the bednets be free or sold for a small fee? They talk of development as an “accumulation of small steps, each well thought out, carefully tested and judiciously implemented”.

There is a huge amount that is positive here. How can anyone object to using rigorous evidence to make better policy? Furthermore, their research throws up all kinds of challenges to assumptions about how the poor behave and the choices they make. Ever wondered why there are so many half-built houses in developing countries? Answer: the poor save brick by brick. Slowly building a house can be their only way of saving because saving small amounts in banks is so expensive.

There is some fascinating stuff here: take for example a chapter on how the poor make decisions about healthcare. Duflo and Banerjee point out that there are some very cheap health interventions which often the poor are reluctant to sacrifice the time or the money to get, for example oral rehydration salt and sugar for a sick baby. It’s not that they don’t care, because the research shows that they worry a lot about their family’s health, nor is that they don’t spend money on it – they do and more than one might expect. So the puzzling conclusion is that the poor spend money on expensive cures rather than cheap prevention: in Indian surveys, they prefer to go to private doctors who over-medicated (most often injections, drips and antibiotics); their healthcare was often unnecessary and even dangerous.

But their approach is also controversial, because it blames poverty on three I’s -- Ignorance, ideology and inertia. Some might argue that deep-seated problems in power structures, both political and domestic, matter too....

Back in 2012, Esther Duflo had ‘Lunch with the Financial Times’ - a popular interview format which often elicits more insights than a standard face-to-face.

The FT’s John Gapper wrote:

Duflo, raised in Paris, is one of three children whose mother, Violaine, instilled in them a sense of social justice. “Part of me always wanted to do something useful for the world. It came from my mother. She is a paediatrician and she was active in a small NGO for the child victims of war. She used to travel to countries that had been through war and she would come back and show us slides to make us aware.”

She studied history with economics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, an elite institution that turns out French academics and politicians, and the turning point came in her fourth year, spent in Russia.

During her meal of French onion soup, Eggs Benedict and a decaf cappuccino, Duflo discussed her research on women in the developing world:

Despite cultural barriers, several studies have indicated that putting women in charge of decision-making, for example on village councils in India, makes it more likely that children will be well-fed and better educated. So would poverty be eradicated if it were a woman’s world?

Typically, Duflo has a hard-headed view – it might help but it wouldn’t be enough by itself. “It is codified that women in Africa are in charge of getting food on the table so you get better outcomes for children when resources are transferred to women. But you cannot rely on women’s empowerment to make us all rich and healthy.

During the interview, Duflo -- then pregnant-- also explained she was taking US citizenship.... even though the food was better in France! As she put it:

My child is going to be American.....

And he [Banerjee] doesn’t speak French, so I don’t think he would like to go to France.”

The portraits of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kreme, who have won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
The portraits of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kreme, who have won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters

Professor Costas Milas of Liverpool University tells me that all three winners are very highly regarded in their field:

Based on data from 56,942 authors, RePEc (Research Papers in Economics; a central index of economics research available here) places all 3 Nobel Prize Winners in the top 1‰ in terms of the popularity of their research work.

More specifically, in terms of Research Work by Number of Citations, Weighted by Recursive Impact Factors and Discounted by Citation Age, Esther Duflo is ranked 3rd worldwide. Abhijit Banerjee is ranked 163rd worldwide and Michael Kremer is ranked 260th worldwide.

Professor Avner Offer of Oxford University has welcomed today’s awards, saying:

“An excellent prize this time.

[It] is long overdue recognition for an important field and some of its very best practitioners. This field also constitutes a rejection of standard economic theory, which it invokes very little and often not at all.”

Offer has also co-written a history of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which explains how the Swedish central bank created the award to promote market-friendly economics -- helping fuel the rise of market liberalism.

Nat Dyer of PEP, a new economics organisation, has flagged up that this year’s award is notable for several other reasons, as well as the second female winner.

He says:

  • Only second time poverty cited: the citation for this year’s winners (“for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”) is only the second time in the history of the economics prize that ‘poverty’ has been cited. The only other time was in 2015 with Angus Deaton [according to PEP analysis online here].

  • Only third BAME male to win: Abhijit Banerjee becomes only the third male who is not white to win the top prize in economics - the other two being - Arthur Lewis in 1979 and Amartya Sen in 1998.

PEP (which stands for Promoting Economic Pluralism) also launched a ‘Not the Nobel’ prize this year. It was won by influential UCL Professor Mariana Mazzucato for her work ‘reimagining the role of the state and value in economics’.

New campaign to raise economics diversity

As Esther Duflo becomes just the second woman to be awarded the Nobel prize for economics in 50 years, a timely new campaign is being launched on Tuesday to increase diversity in the study of economics in the UK.

Currently economics students are disproportionately male and privately educated - one in six boys studying for A-levels takes economics compared with just one in 17 girls. The subject is also more popular in private schools, with one in five pupils choosing economics A-level, compared to one in 12 in the state sector.

A three-year-campaign, #DiscoverEconomics, led by the Royal Economic Society and supported by the Bank of England and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, is aiming to attract not just more women, but students from other under-represented groups, including ethnic minorities and students in further education colleges, in order to better reflect society.

Stephanie Flanders, senior executive editor at Bloomberg and head of Bloomberg Economics, is backing the campaign:

“Economics is far too important to be left to just one half of the population. Today we have women at the helm of key global institutions such as the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund and female chief economists in place at some of the world’s largest banks.

“But if you look behind these great role models, there are not so very many women coming up the ranks to succeed them. We need to develop a more reliable pipeline of young women entering the profession and I think this campaign could help.”

Clare Lombardelli, chief economic adviser at the Treasury, is also on board, saying:

“Economics and economists are hugely influential – their analysis and advice shapes the world. We need the very best talent to solve today and tomorrow’s challenges, such as the issues raised by climate change, an ageing society, changing technologies or how we improve wellbeing.

“The economics profession is, and has always been, far too narrow. We need people with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives – including people from all over the UK and from differing socio-economic backgrounds – to join the profession and play a part in tackling these issues.”

The campaign wants to change perceptions of economics and economists in order to broaden the appeal of the subject, working first with universities and employers and later in schools.

You can really get to grips with Kremer, Duflo and Banerjee’s work by reading this 41-page scientific explainer.

It explains how the trio used empirical research to really dig into the causes of poverty, and to show in practices which policies actually work.

The explainer says:

While theory can pinpoint certain incentives, it does not tell us how powerful these are in practice. To give just a few examples, theory cannot tell us whether temporarily employing additional contract teachers with a possibility of re-employment is a more cost-effective way to raise the quality of education than reducing class sizes. Neither can it tell us whether microfinance programs effectively boost entrepreneurship among the poor. Nor does it reveal the extent to which subsidized health-care products will raise poor people’s investment in their own health.

Knowing the right quantitative answers to such specific questions is vital for enhancing human capital, increasing income, and improving health among the poor. Answering these questions requires an empirical approach that allows researchers to draw firm conclusions about causal effects.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (who, incidentally, are partners) took Kremer’s work in Kenya, and proved that simply forcing children to spend more time in school didn’t actually help tackle poverty.

The Nobel committee explains:

Banerjee, Duflo and their co-authors concluded that students appeared to learn nothing from additional days at school. Neither did spending on textbooks seem to boost learning, even though the schools in Kenya lacked many essential inputs. Moreover, in the Indian context Banerjee and Duflo intended to study, many children appeared to learn little: in results from field tests in the city of Vadodara fewer than one in five third-grade students could correctly answer first-grade curriculum math test questions.

In response to such findings, Banerjee, Duflo and co-authors argued that efforts to get more children into school must be complemented by reforms to improve school quality.


How work with Kenyan schools transformed poverty economics

Hundreds of children line up to go to their class rooms at Buru Buru 1 Primary School in Nairobi
Hundreds of children line up to go to their class rooms at Buru Buru 1 Primary School in Nairobi, in 2003 Photograph: Sayyid Azim/AP

Michael Kremer’s pioneering work in Kenya more than two decades ago has helped to transform development economics, winning him a share of today’s Nobel prize.

In the mid 1990s, Kremer’s team ran a series of field experiments in western Kenya. They wanted to find out which initiatives to raise educational standards actually worked.

They examined free textbooks, flip charts, deworming children, school meals, and financial incentives for teachers if their pupils did well.

These early studies illustrated the power and feasibility of focused field experiments. But they also offered substantive lessons. Given the context, simply providing more resources had a limited impact on school quality.

Today’s Nobel citation explains:

More textbooks per student did not improve average test scores, but did improve test scores of the most able students. Giving flip charts to schools had no effect on student learning. The two health interventions reduced school absenteeism, but did not improve test scores. In theory, the incentive program could lead teachers either to increase effort to stimulate longterm learning or, alternatively, to teach to the test.

The latter effect dominated. Teachers increased their efforts in test preparation, which raised test scores on exams linked to the incentives, but left test scores in unrelated exams unaffected.

The Royal Swedish Academy have produced a ‘popular science backgrounder’ to explain Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer’s work on fighting poverty.

For example, it proved that healthcare initiatives were much more effective when medicine was provided for free:

A field experiment by Kremer and co-author investigated how the demand for deworming pills for parasitic infections was affected by price. They found that 75 per cent of parents gave their children these pills when the medicine was free, compared to 18 per cent when they cost less than a US dollar, which is still heavily subsidised. Subsequently, many similar experiments have found the same thing: poor people are extremely price-sensitive regarding investments in preventive healthcare.

Low service quality is another explanation why poor families invest so little in preventive measures. One example is that staff at the health centres that are responsible for vaccinations are often absent from work. Banerjee, Duflo et al. investigated whether mobile vaccination clinics – where the care staff were always on site – could fix this problem. Vaccination rates tripled in the villages that were randomly selected to have access to these clinics, at 18% compared to 6%.

Nobel prize-winning research into poverty

The Royal Swedish Academy awards committee say they’re optimistic that more female economists will be recognised in the future.

They point out that Esther Duflo won the John Bates Clark Medal for economists under 40 (often called the mini-Nobel) in 2010 -- that’s a good clue to where future winners may come from.

That’s good news for this year’s winner Emi Nakamura (she’s Professor of Economics at University of California, Berkeley), and Amy Finkelstein of MIT (she won in 2012).

The committee also dismisses any notion that Duflo won because she’s a women - it’s because her research is so good (as is Banerjee’s and Kremer’s, of course!).

Q: What will you do with the prize money (the trio will share 9 million Swedish krona, or around £720,000)?

Duflo says that when she was eight or nine, she read that Marie Curie had spent her first Nobel Prize money on equipment for further research into radiation.

She hopes to do the equivalent for poverty research.

"Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect they deserve."

- Esther Duflo at today's press conference announcing her prize.

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019

Q: What do you think about the risks from Brexit and trade wars?

We live in turbulent times, hard times, Esther Duflo replies, telling us:

Many people in rich companies are worried about their position in the world. They think they have lost their dignity and don’t have the place in the world they deserve.

That is probably at the root of much of the turmoil we are seeing.

She suggests that using the techniques she, Banerjee and Kremer have used in the developing world could help explain problems in the developed world.

Duflo: Women in economics deserve more respect

Q: How does it feel to become the second women to win the Nobel prize for economics?

Esther Duflo says she hopes to represent all the women in economics.... and then warns that the economics profession simply doesn’t treat women well enough.

She tells the Nobel prize committee that the ‘environment’ in economics needs to improve.

We are a time when we are starting to realise in the profession that the way we conduct each other privately and publicly, is not conducive all the time to a very good environment for women.

Showing that it is possible for a women to succeed, and to be recognised for success, I hope will inspire many many other women to continue working, and many many other men to give them the respect they deserve, like every single human being.

Duflo: It's important to understand poverty's deep roots

Esther Duflo is on the phone now, from California (She and Banerjee, who are married, both work at MIT while Michael Kremer is at Harvard).

She explains that the trio’s work has focused on understanding the “deep, interconnected roots of poverty”.

Too often, policymakers can generalise about people in poverty, thinking they are completely desperate, or lazy, or entrepreneurial, without understanding the causes, she says.

Our approach is to unpack the problems one by one, and examine them as scientifically as possible.

Q: What’s your reaction to winning?

It’s incredibly humbling, Duflo replies. She didn’t believe that she (who is 46), Banerjee (58) and Kremer (54) would be in the running until they were significantly older.

She add that the award also recognises hundreds of researchers who work on global poverty. It is a movement that is much larger than the three of us, she adds.

Esther Duflo is also the youngest person to win the Nobel economics prize.


Why Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer won

The official announcement is online here.

It explains that The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has recognised Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer for “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.

Despite recent dramatic improvements, one of humanity’s most urgent issues is the reduction of global poverty, in all its forms. More than 700 million people still subsist on extremely low incomes. Every year, around five million children under the age of five still die of diseases that could often have been prevented or cured with inexpensive treatments. Half of the world’s children still leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills.

This year’s Laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty. In brief, it involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions – for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health. They have shown that these smaller, more precise, questions are often best answered via carefully designed experiments among the people who are most affected.

In the mid-1990s, Michael Kremer and his colleagues demonstrated how powerful this approach can be, using field experiments to test a range of interventions that could improve school results in western Kenya.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, often with Michael Kremer, soon performed similar studies of other issues and in other countries. Their experimental research methods now entirely dominate development economics.


Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer have won the Nobel Prize in economics for their experiment-based approach to tackling poverty -- in the fast-growing area of development economics .

The key to their research is to take the daunting issue of global poverty, and break it down into smaller questions -- which can be more credibly answered.

For example, to find ways to imprive children health you would examine various experimental approaches, such as education methods, health systems, agricultural approaches, and access to credit.

Esther Duflo’s success means we have a second female winner of the Nobel prize in economics, 50 years after it was first awarded.

The first was Elinor Ostrom in 2009.


The 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been awarded to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”#NobelPrize

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019

Nobel Prize in Economics awarded to Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer

The 2019 Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their work alleviating global poverty.

Not long now!

WATCH LIVE: Join us for the announcement of the 2019 Prize in Economic Sciences.

Hear the breaking news first – see the live coverage from 11:45am CEST.

Where are you watching from?#NobelPrize

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has filled up, ready for the final Nobel prize of 2019 to be awarded.

We’ve added a live feed to the top of the blog - you might need to refresh the page to see it.

Nobel Prize: the key statistics

Winning a Nobel prize changes someone’s life, and not always in a good way.

Seeing your life’s work recognised must be a great feeling, and the money can’t hurt either! But there are downsides -- including constant attention, and the danger that your every utterance suddenly carries rather more weight.

As we wrote last week:

Those who win a Nobel are often propelled from a quiet life running a laboratory or writing books to minor celebrity overnight. Invitations to give talks, attend parties and pronounce opinions on a wide variety of topics come flooding in. Some are thrilled to have a platform from which to raise political issues and gain access to politicians, business leaders and the media. For others, this comes as a downside. The Anglo-Dutch laureate Sir Andre Geim joked that “journalists’ questions” were one of the negatives.

Another physics laureate, Brian Schmidt told New Scientist magazine: “One of the pitfalls of being a Nobel winner is that our voices are too loud when it comes to providing personal opinion – and in this respect, I need to be far more careful than I used to be about what I say and what I write.”

But at least you get your pick of bright students? No according to one chemistry Nobel winner, Martin Chalfie, who reported struggling to recruit students since winning the prize.

Excitement is building, with just 30 minutes until the economics Nobel is awarded.

If Paul Milgrom wins the @NobelPrize for Economics, will be a terrific recognition for the use of auctions as a tool in telecom and energy sectors at his firm

— Raju Narisetti (@raju) October 13, 2019

Tomorrow Nobel Prize in Economics will be announced. Macrofinance guys to be awarded sound more logical to me but I also have a feeling that Claudia Goldin is a strong nominee not only bec. of her humanitarian perspective to econ but due to the global populism on gender politics

— Dr. Pınar Deniz (@DrPinarDeniz) October 13, 2019

Would be amazing to celebrate diversity with this year's @NobelPrize e.g. non-white woman working in non-mainstream field of economics. It's good to dream in life...

— Michela Faccioli (@MFaccioli_) October 14, 2019

Bloomberg’s Noah Smith has come up with an impressive list of potential winners.

1) The New Keynesians: Economists who have examined causes of recessions, and explained how policymakers need to act when the business cycle deteriorates. There’s plenty of possible options, including: Michael Woodford, Stanley Fischer, Greg Mankiw, Nobuhiro Kiyotaki, Olivier Blanchard, Guillermo Calvo, Janet Yellen and David Romer.

2) Claudia Goldin, for her work on equality.

Smith explains:

Goldin identifies increasing education as a key driver of the fall in U.S. inequality in the early 20th century, and blames a slowdown in educational attainment for the reversal of that happy trend.

3) David Card of the University of California-Berkeley. His landmark studies of low-skilled immigration and minimum wages proved that neither were particularly damaging to local workers. They also changed the way economists used data.

4) Paul Milgrom, for his theoretical work on game theory, contract theory, financial modelling, and more!

Smith writes:

The economics Nobel tends to favor the work of pure theorists who work on the deepest problems. And few thinkers dig deeper than Stanford University’s Paul Milgrom.

He was a major figure in the creation of auction theory -- probably the most empirically successful and practically useful economic theory of all time, which is now used to power everything from Google ads to federal spectrum auctions.

5) Daron Acemoglu of MIT, for his work on political economy, and why some nations succeed while others fail.

His most important thesis is that social institutions are crucial for development and don’t change much over time -- places that develop institutions based on exploiting labor and extracting resources tend to do badly over the centuries, while those that create more inclusive systems flourish. More recently, Acemoglu has tackled the question of whether automation will make humans obsolete.

There are plenty of economists whose work is worthy of a Nobel. @Noahpinion narrows the field Great read for ambitious student economists.

— Tutor2u Geoff (@tutor2uGeoff) October 13, 2019

Possible female winners

French Esther Duflo, professor of Economics at MIT University.
French Esther Duflo, professor of Economics at MIT University. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

One female winner in 50 years really isn’t good enough. And there are several women who could be recognised by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today.

One possibility is Esther Duflo, the MIT-based French-American economist. She and her partner Abhijit Banerjee have pioneered the use of randomized control trials to test the effectiveness of anti-poverty initiatives -- is it better to give people in the developing world food, or money?

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin’s work on the gender pay gap is also highly relevant. She’s examined the high cost of women taking time out of the labour market in certain professions, and the cost of seeking jobs with more flexible hours or remote-work options.

Princeton’s Janet Currie is another option, for her work on healthcare issues such as insurance, nutrition and early intervention programs.

As is Anne Osborn Krueger -- who showed how the wealthy can use ‘rent-seeking’ to become wealthier.

And don’t forget Katarina Juselius (see earlier post).


Back in 2016, the FiveThirtyEight website calculated that:

The typical winner of the Nobel in economics is a 67-year-old man, born in the United States, who is working at the University of Chicago when he wins.”

Little has changed subsequently, with five men in their 60s or 70s winning in the last three years (including Richard Thaler of Chicago).

Here are some facts on the Economics Sciences prize, from

Number of Prizes in Economic Sciences

  • 50 Prizes in Economic Sciences have been awarded every year since 1969.
  • 25 Prizes in Economic Sciences have been given to one Laureate only.
  • 19 Prizes in Economic Sciences have been shared by two Laureates.
  • 6 Prizes in Economic Sciences have been shared between three Laureates.

Number of Laureates in Economic Sciences

Youngest Laureate in Economic Sciences

Oldest Laureate in Economic Sciences

  • Leonid Hurwicz, who was 90 years old when he was awarded in 2007, which also makes him the oldest person to win any Nobel prize

Female Laureates in Economic Sciences

  • Elinor Ostrom became the first female Laureate in 2019, and is still the only one

Here’s 2017’s winner, Richard Thaler, with some inspiring words for those who found academia a struggle <raises hand>:

"I wasn't a great student. My thesis advisor famously said: 'We didn't expect much of him'" - Richard Thaler, 2017 Laureate in Economic Sciences.

Tomorrow the recipient(s) of the 2019 Prize in Economic Sciences will be announced - stay tuned!

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 13, 2019

Some possible winners

Clarivate Analytics, a data provider, has produced a possible shortlist of candidates for today’s award.

By adding up academic citations, they’ve worked out whose work is particularly highly regarded this year, making them worth winners.

And the likely candidates are:

My colleague Philip Inman has written more, here:

Introduction: Nobel (ish) prize for Economics awarded today

Good morning. The final act of the 2019 Nobel Prize season is upon us.

The biggest prize in the world of economics will be awarded this morning, to recognise outstanding contributions to the discipline.

Of course, there isn’t really a Nobel Prize for economics. Today’s award is a late addition to the fold, created in 1969 by the Swedish central bank to mark its 300th anniversary.

Critics, including some of the Nobel family, have criticised the award, suggesting it shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with Physics, Medicine, Chemistry, Literature and Peace.

However, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has rewarded important work over the last half century, and has been awarded to some of the profession’s most influential figures.

Coming up: We'll soon be announcing the recipient of the 2019 Prize in Economic Sciences.

Stay tuned to discover who it will be!#NobelPrize

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019

It’s not without controversy either. Many on the left would question how Milton Friedman picked up the award in 1976 for his work on monetarism, for example.

And back in 1997, Robert Merton and Myron Scholes were hailed for their work determining the value of derivatives -- before such financial contracts helped to create the financial crisis.

Last year, the prize went to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer.

Nordhaus was recognised for his pioneering investigations into environmental economics, while Romer won for his work on the causes of economic growth (which helped inspire the endogenous growth theory beloved by former UK PM Gordon Brown).

Other recent winners include Angus Deaton for his work on poverty (in 2015), Paul Krugman for trade patterns ( 2008), and Richard Thaler for ‘nudge’ economics (2017).

As usual, there’s no official shortlist, but that’s no excuse not to speculate!

The awards committee could lean towards environmental work again, given the climate emergency. They could recognise work on trade, given the disruption caused by the US-China trade war. They could look to the economics of inequality, or to financial economics.

This year’s winner will pick up 9 million Swedish krona, or around £720,000, which will be shared if two, or three, winners are selected. As with the other Nobel prizes, it can’t be awarded posthumously.

The agenda

  • 10.45am BST: Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel



Graeme Wearden

The GuardianTramp

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