© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nobel Prize For Economics Awarded To 3 For Work Fighting Global Poverty


We now know the winners of the Nobel Prize in economics for this year. Three researchers from Cambridge, Mass., share the prize. They are a husband and wife from MIT and a colleague from Harvard, all of whom studied alleviating poverty. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. Hey, Scott.


INSKEEP: Who are these researchers?

HORSLEY: Esther DuFlo from MIT and her husband Abhijit Banerjee, they are sharing the prize with Michael Kremer, who is from Harvard. DuFlo is originally from France, Banerjee's originally from India, and Kremer is from the United States.

As you say, the three are being recognized for their work on alleviating poverty. In particular, they pioneered an experimental approach to the study of poverty, really digging into the discrete causes of extreme poverty around the world and some of the best ways to go about addressing it. The Nobel committee said this has been instrumental in helping policymakers and nonprofits figure out what works, what doesn't and how to allocate aid money in the most effective way.

This style of economics has been widely adopted now. And DuFlo says the prize is really a recognition not just of them but of the work that's being done by that larger community.

ESTHER DUFLO: I think the three of us stand for hundreds of researchers and - who are part of a network that have worked on global poverty that we created together 15 years ago - J-PAL - and thousands of staff and of course all of the partners and NGOs and governments that we have worked with.

HORSLEY: She said it's become a movement larger than ourselves.

INSKEEP: Now, the very fact that we were listening to a woman's voice for the Nobel Prize in economics is rather unusual, isn't it?

HORSLEY: It is. She's only the second woman to share in the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics. The committee stressed that she shared that prize not because she's a woman but because she's deserving. But this does come at a time of a lot of soul-searching in the economics profession. There has been concern of late that the profession itself is hostile to women.

And DuFlo talked a little bit about that this morning. She said economists are grappling with ways to make the profession more welcoming to women. And she said she hopes that this Nobel Prize will inspire more women to go into economics and, she pointedly added, inspire more men to give them a chance.

INSKEEP: What else did she have to say when they woke her up to give her the news?

HORSLEY: (Laughter) She was woken up before 5 o'clock this morning on the East Coast. And she did get a chance to have a cup of coffee before she was trotted out to address the news media.

But she was asked about some of the political turmoil around the world - not necessarily exactly on topic of her research. But she was asked, for example, about Brexit and things like that. She suggested that a lot of workers in wealthy countries have grown anxious about their position in an economy that is increasingly global. And she suggested that, you know, the same approach that she and her colleagues have used to explore the causes and solutions for extreme poverty around the world could also be used to address some of that insecurity that's affecting less fortunate people in wealthy countries.

She was also asked, as Nobel Prize winners usually are, what she plans to do with the money. She is - you know, she's a poverty researcher who has suddenly become a fairly wealthy woman.


HORSLEY: She pointed to the example of Marie Curie, who, when she won the Nobel Prize, was asked what she was going to do and said she was going to use it to buy a gram of radium. That is, she was going to plow it back into her research. And DuFlo said she and her fellow laureates will have to get together and figure out - what's our gram of radium?

INSKEEP: Wow. Nine-hundred-ten thousand dollars, I assume, can buy quite a lot of radium, if she were to go that way. Scott, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

HORSLEY: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Horsley.

(SOUNDBITE OF THURSTON MOORE'S "GRACE LAKE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
More On This Topic