Youngest Ever Winner of Nobel Prize in Economics is a She

Esther Duflo is one of three people to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences today. What makes it most memorable is that Duflo is the youngest person to ever have received the prestigious award. Additionally, she is only the second woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in Economics in fifty-one years. At age 46, Ms. Duflo is now famous for her work in developing ways to examine how people can get out of the ‘poverty trap’. 

Her work was honored alongside Abhijit Banarjee and Michael Kremer in the jointly awarded Nobel Prize for their “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” 

Duflo is the co-author of A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, which was published in 2012. According to the book, Esther was riveted as a child by a comic book about Mother Teresa. The cartoons depicted Kolkata as so crowded that every person had only ten square feet of living space. She wanted to help those people.

In later years, as a graduate student from MIT, she first visited Kolkata and was somewhat perplexed to see so much empty space – where were all the people? Thus began her journey to create new and better ways at looking at poverty realistically.

“The endless debates about the rights and wrongs of aid often obscure what really matters: not so much where the money comes from, but where it goes.”  – A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

Bio of Esther Duflo

Esther is a dual French-American citizen. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT, as well as a Masters in Economics from DELTA in France. Her CV lists dozens of journals where she has published her findings. Moreover, she has earned over 50 honors and awards, over and above this esteemed Nobel Prize in Economics, including:

  • 2018 The Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Global Justice, Yale University
  • 2015 A.SK Social Science Award, WZB Berlin Social Science Center
  • 2014 Infosys Prize in Social Sciences and Economics, Infosys Science Foundation
  • 2013 The Dan David Award, 2013 Laureate in Future Dimension- Preventive Medicine, Tel Aviv University
  • 2011 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty”, with Abhijit Banerjee
  • 2009 Prix de l’excellent economique (for the Best Economic Essay of 2009, “Lutter Contre la Pauvrete,” volumes I and II)
  • 2008 Inaugural holder of the chair “Knowledge Against Poverty”, College de France, Paris 

Esther also has multiple editorial responsibilities, including as Founding Editor or The American Economic Journal: Applied Economics and as Co-editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics.

What led her to win the Nobel Prize in Economics?

Duflo is now a professor at MIT along with her colleague, husband and former doctorate supervisor, Abhijit Banarjee. Much of her work stemmed from researching poor areas of India and Africa. There, she looked at the impact of policies such as incentivizing teachers and other methods of empowering women. The tests she and her colleagues conducted sought to establish which types of investments would make the most impact on the lives of the poor.

Instead of working with cliches about poverty, Duflo put forth that “We need to understand the obstacles faced by the poorest and try to think about how we can help them move on.”

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