The 2019 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded Monday to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for pioneering new ways to alleviate global poverty.
Banerjee and Duflo are at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while Kremer is at Harvard University. The three have often worked together.
Duflo, who phoned into the news conference where the prize was announced, said receiving it was “incredibly humbling.” The 46-year-old, born in Paris, is the youngest person ever and only the second woman to receive the economics prize. The first was Elinor Ostrom in 2009.
She noted that the profession is not always a welcoming one for women.
“Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognized for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve like every single human being,” she said.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three economists pioneered new ways to fight global poverty by focusing on smaller, more manageable issues like education or child health.
They said Kremer showed the power of that approach in the mid-1990s in fieldwork in Kenya.
The academy said that as a direct result of the winners’ studies, five million Indian children benefited from remedial tutoring in schools.
Colleagues applauded the news.
“Fantastic decision!!” Max Roser, a University of Oxford researcher who founded the Our World in Data project, wrote on Twitter. “Even after two centuries of progress against global poverty I think it is clearly one of the very biggest problems in the world today.”
Banerjee’s mother, Nirmala Banerjee, also an economist, told news channel NDTV in India that the prize was unexpected.
“He has been trying to get economics away from the theoretical part, but using theory to understand the world as it is,” she said from her home in Kolkata. “The way it works, the way poverty is, the way people handle poverty.”
Banerjee frequently returns to India to contribute to the work of the Poverty Action Lab, an international research center he and Duflo co-founded in 2003. “This is huge for us,” Shobhini Mukerji, the South Asia branch’s executive director told The Associated Press from New Delhi. “India is where the seeds were sown for their research.”
Banerjee this year advised India’s opposition party, the Congress, ahead of national elections in May about offering financial aid to the poor. He has also criticized the Modi government about alleged political interference in statistical data and over a program to take cash out of the economy.
There was no immediate comment from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter, where he is an active user.
Officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, the award wasn’t created by the prize founder, but is considered to be part of the Nobel stable of awards.
It was created by Riksbanken, the Swedish central bank, in 1968, and the first winner was selected a year later.
With the glory comes a 9 million-kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma.
Last week, six Nobel prizes were given — medicine, physics and chemistry plus two literature awards, and the coveted Peace Prize.
All but the winner of the Peace Prize receive their awards on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896 — in Stockholm. The winner of the Peace Prize receives the award in Oslo, Norway.