French poverty scholar is second female Nobel economics laureate

Esther Duflo – the youngest ever economics Nobelist – shares 2019 prize with Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer

October 14, 2019
Nobel, Oslo
Source: iStock

A French researcher on global poverty has become the second woman – and the youngest person – to win the Nobel prize in economics.

Esther Duflo, 46, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences – known as the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics – on 14 October, sharing the honour with her husband, Abhijit Banerjee (also at MIT) and Michael Kremer, from Harvard University.

The Nobel committee commended the laureates for their “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”, saying that “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”.

Their work “introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty” by “dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions – for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health”, the committee said.

“Their experimental research methods now entirely dominate development economics,” it added.

The award recognises the work of Professor Kremer and his colleagues in the mid-1990s, which “demonstrated how powerful this approach can be, using field experiments to test a range of interventions that could improve school results in western Kenya”.

Professors Duflo and Banerjee, a Mumbai-born born economist, often in collaboration with Professor Kremer, then performed similar studies of other issues and in other countries, the committee added.

Professor Duflo – who took her PhD at MIT under the supervision of Professor Banerjee, and her undergraduate degree at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris – is now the only living female Nobel economics laureate. The only other woman to win the honour, introduced in 1969, was 2009’s laureate, Elinor Ostrom, who died in 2012.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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