Indian-born Abhijit Banerjee of the United States, French-American Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer of the US won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize for creating an experimental approach to alleviating global poverty, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on Monday.
“This year’s Laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty,” the academy said in a statement.
Esther Duflo is only the second woman to be honoured in this year’s Nobel season. The Economics prize has only gone to a woman once before in its 50-year history.
“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,” she said at a news conference on Monday.
The nine million Swedish crown ($915,300) economics prize is a later addition to the five awards created in the will of industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, established by the Swedish central bank and first awarded in 1969.
Banerjee and Duflo are a husband-and-wife team, both currently professors at MIT, who cofounded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. It is a global research centre committed to injecting scientific evidence into poverty-reduction policy. Together, Banerjee and Duflo wrote the ground-breaking book “Poor Economics”, which lays out empirical approaches to eradicating poverty.
Harvard professor Michael Kremer proposed the O-ring theory of economic development which helps explain international economic disparity. He is also associated with Banerjee and Duflo’s Poverty Action Lab.
“Despite recent dramatic improvements, one of humanity’s most urgent issues is the reduction of global poverty, in all its forms,” said the awarded committee in its citation.
“More than 700 million people still subsist on extremely low incomes. Every year, approximately 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.”