Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics on Monday “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”
The award recognizes their work on reducing poverty by breaking down larger problems, such as deficiencies in education and child health, into component pieces, then designing targeted field experiments to determine the most effective solutions.
The three winners introduced a new rigorous, practical, and incremental approach to fighting poverty. Starting in the mid-1990s, Kremer began testing ways to improve school results in western Kenya. Banerjee and Duflo later worked on similar studies, sometimes with Kremer, on a variety of problems in other countries.
Their work in agriculture, education, and health has led to direct benefit for millions of poor people worldwide. More than 5 million Indian children have been helped by remedial tutoring in schools owing to their research. And their studies have also resulted in major increases spending on preventive health care in several nations.
Banerjee, 58, was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Harvard University, where he received his PhD in 1988. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 2003, Banerjee founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab(J-PAL), along with Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and he 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.
Esther Duflo, born 1972 in Paris, received her PhD in 1999 from MIT. She is only the second woman and the youngest to win the Nobel in Economic Sciences.
Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the MIT.
Duflo’s first degrees were in history and economics from Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.
Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are the sixth married couple to win the Nobel Prize. The first would be Pierre Curie and Marie Curie who won the award in 1903 for their discovery of radium and polonium. The last time a couple won the award together would be in 2014, when May Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser won the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology.
Michael Kremer is an American development economist who is the Gates Professor of Developing Societies at Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Presidential Faculty Fellowship.
In 2010, he was named the Scientific Director of Development Innovation Ventures for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and in 2013-2014, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.