Three researchers on Monday were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their groundbreaking work in studying poverty-stricken communities around the world and developing ways to make a difference in poor people’s lives through education and healthcare.
Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of M.I.T. and Michael Kremer of Harvard were named the winners of this year’s award, receiving recognition for their two decades of experiment-based research and the concrete impact they’ve had on the communities they study—a departure for a prize which has often been given to economists whose work is grounded in theory.
“The research conducted by this year’s Laureates has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said (pdf). “In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research.”
Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer examine ways to alleviate poverty through interventions in some of the systems that leave the poorest people behind, including schools and healthcare.
In one experiment, the researchers found that access to extra textbooks did not have a meaningful impact on improving students’ outcomes in Kenya—but that tutors for low-performing students in India did help them to learn more effectively in school.
“As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefited from effective programs of remedial tutoring in schools,” the Academy of Sciences wrote.
The international charity Save the Children, which counts Banerjee among its trustees, praised the Academy of Sciences for recognizing the researchers’ work.
The researchers also conducted an experiment in which residents in more than 200 villages in India spread information about vaccinations, finding that families were more likely to receive immunizations when the information was shared in the community.
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