Work on poverty in Africa, India wins Nobel Economics prize
London, Oct. 15, 2019 (AltAfrica)-A trio of American economists, Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer and Abhijit Banerjee on Monday won the Nobel Economics Prize for their work in the fight against poverty, including with new approaches in education and healthcare.
All three were recognised for their “experiment-based approach” to tackling global poverty, and using randomised control trials to discover which educational outcomes or child health initiatives actually work.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences declared:
The Laureates’ research findings – and those of the researchers following in their footsteps – have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice. As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefitted from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools.
Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries.
This post explains how Kremer conducted pioneering work with Kenyan schools in the mid-1990s, which was further developed by Duflo and Banerjee.
Esther Duflo, 46, is the youngest ever winner of the economics prize and only the second woman to gain the accolade.
She won the prestigious John Bates Clark medal in 2010 which is often a first step to the Nobel award.
The economist made her name conducting research 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 an interview in September 2017 while discussing the aim of her fieldwork and research as a professor at MIT in Boston. “We need to understand the obstacles faced by the poorest and try to think about how we can help them move on,” she said.
As a result, she has brought fresh perspective to the field of development economics, treading a new path between proponents of huge transfers of aid to poor nations, and those who reject such help as a form of rich-world paternalism.
Poverty in retreat
Despite witnessing at first-hand acute malnutrition and misery caused by deprivation, Duflo remains optimistic, stressing that poverty is in retreat globally.
“The story of the fight against poverty is full of successes. Extreme poverty has fallen sharply, infant mortality has been divided in half, schooling for primary-age children has become almost universal,” she told AFP in 2017.
Her work has been supported by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, and she was once an advisor to US president Barack Obama.
The lover of classical music was raised in Paris and is the daughter of a mathematician father and a paediatrician mother, whom she credits with giving her an urge to help people less fortunate than herself.
Duflo attended the prestigious Henri IV school in the French capital and went on to win a place at the equally elite Ecole Normale Superieure university, a training ground for French academics.
But she left her home country to study at MIT, obtaining a doctorate in 1999 and joining the faculty. She secured tenure when she was just 29, marking her out instantly as a rising star.
The Economics Prize wraps up a Nobel season that stands out for its crowning of two literature laureates.
Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk for 2018 – delayed by a year due to a sexual harassment scandal – and Austrian novelist Peter Handke for 2019, whose selection sparked controversy because of his pro-Serb support during the Balkan wars.
Prior to that, the laureates in the fields of medicine, physics and chemistry were announced.
On Friday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve the long-running conflict with neighbouring foe Eritrea