Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 | Last Update : 07:39 PM IST

India-born Professor Abhijit among 3 to get Nobel Economics Prize

AGENCIES
Published : Oct 15, 2019, 1:23 am IST
Updated : Oct 15, 2019, 1:50 am IST

Their research helps show which investments are worth making and has the biggest impact on the lives of the poorest people.

Abhijit Banerjee
 Abhijit Banerjee

Stockholm: A trio of American economists — India-born Abhijit Banerjee of the US, French-American professor Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer — were honoured on Monday with the Nobel Economics Prize for their work in the fight against poverty, including novel initiatives in education and healthcare, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

“This year’s laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty,” the jury said.

Prof. Banerjee, 58, and Prof. Duflo, 46, are both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, while Prof. Kremer, 54, is a professor at Harvard University.

Prof. Banerjee was educated at Presidency Coll-ege, Calcutta, Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Univ-ersity (JNU) and Harvard University, where he received his PhD in 1988. He and Prof. Duflo are married.

Prof Duflo, who is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel in Economics, is also the second woman ever to win the Economics Prize in its 50-year existence, following Elinor Ostrom in 2009. She is a former advisor to ex-US President Barack Obama.

The science academy said that “more than 700 million people still subsist on extremely low inco-mes,” and that around five million children under the age of five still die every year from preventable or curable diseases.

The three economists found efficient ways of combating poverty by breaking down difficult issues into smaller, more manageable questions, which can then be answered through field experiments, the jury said. Their “research findings — and those of the researchers following in their footsteps — have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice,” it said.

Their research helps show which investments are worth making and has the biggest impact on the lives of the poorest people.

“They have shown that these smaller, more precise, questions are often best answered via carefully designed experiments among the people who are most affected,” it said.

“As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefited from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools. Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries,” the jury said.

Prof. Banerjee is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the MIT.

In 2003, he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with Prof. Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and remains one of the lab’s directors.

He also served on the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Prof. Duflo, born in 1972, is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

With Prof. Banerjee, she wrote Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, which won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011 and has been translated into more than 17 languages.

“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,” Prof. Duflo said at a press conference soon after the announcement.

“I didn’t think it was possible to win the Nobel Prize in Economics before being significantly older than any of the three of us,” she added.

Prof. Duflo has made her name conducting research, together with her husband who was her PhD supervisor, 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 a September 2017 interview.

In the 1990s, Kremer used field experiments to test interventions to improve school results in western Kenya.

He has also helped develop programmes to incentivise the distribution of vaccines for diseases in the developing world.

Unlike the other Nobels awarded since 1901, the Economics Prize was not created by the prizes’ founder, philanthropist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, in his 1895 will. It was devised in 1968 to mark the 300th anniversary of Sweden’s central bank, and first awarded in 1969.

Each of the Nobels comes with a prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor ($914,000), to be shared if there is more than one winner in the discipline.

But unluckily for recent winners, the prize’s value has lost around $185,000 in the past two years, due to the depreciation of the Swedish krona.

The trio will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Alfred Nobel.

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