Esther Duflo, a researcher from Cambridge, Massachusetts, alongside two others, has been awarded this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize for economics.

Duflo is part of a trio of researchers from Cambridge, Massachusetts, including her husband Abhijit Banerjee and colleague Michael Kremer, to win the prestigious prize for their work in addressing global poverty. “This year’s Laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, said in a statement. The researchers’ primary innovation has been breaking the issues of global poverty into smaller questions that can be more easily addressed.

“Our goal is to make sure that the fight against poverty is based on scientific evidence,” Duflo told reporters Monday. “It starts from the idea that often the poor are reduced to caricatures and often, even people who try to help them do not actually understand the roots of the problem.”

The Nobel committee said the researchers’ experimental approach — pioneered by Kremer in the 1990s — which is now followed by hundreds of nonprofits and researchers around the world, has been an important guide for policymakers. “It provides evidence of what works and why,” said Stockholm University economist Jakob Svensson. “Some interventions have been scaled up. Others have influenced policy more indirectly, and some policies have been abandoned simply because they were proven to be ineffective, thereby saving resources that governments or NGOs can use on more productive or effective policies.”

Duflo said the prize is a tribute to collective effort.

“I think the three of us stand for hundreds of researchers who are part of a network that work on global poverty that we created together 15 years ago,” she said. “It really reflects the fact that it has become a movement, a movement that is much larger than us.” Duflo is only the second woman to win the prize since it began in 1969, and at 46 years old, she is also the youngest recipient of the prize. She has said she is “humbled” by her success in winning this year’s Nobel Prize for economics and hopes it will inspire other 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,” Duflo said.

This year’s prize is worth nine million Swedish krona ($915,300). When asked how she intends to spend her share, Duflo referenced a story she read as a young girl about Marie Curie, who used the proceeds of her first Nobel Prize to purchase a gram of radium and continue her research. “I guess we’ll talk between the three of us and figure out what is our gram of radium,” Duflo said.

Sources: BBC 10/14/19; NPR 10/14/19

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