Economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer were recognized “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty,” said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences when it announced the award on Monday.
The question of how to fight a massive and deeply-entrenched problem like global poverty is not new.
But what the three Nobel Prize winners proposed was essentially breaking it down to smaller and more precise questions, creating a set of empirical studies that provide better insights about what actually works to address poverty on a large scale.
The Nobel Prize-winning research has compiled 20 years worth of insights across a range healthcare, education and financial services industries.
“On credit, growing evidence indicates that microfinance programs do not have the development effects that many had thought when these programs were introduced on a large scale,” the Nobel committee stated. “The work by the laureates, and by many other scholars who followed in their footsteps, has dramatically increased the practical quantitative knowledge necessary to isolate key mechanisms behind poverty and behavioral responses to various policy interventions — this work has significantly deepened our understanding of poverty in the developing world.”
In 2015, 10% of the world’s population, about 736 million people, lived on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank’s most recent estimates. That is a decline of almost 36% from 1.85 billion in 1990.
The award also marked a rare recognition of a female economist’s work. Duflo is only the second female winner in the Nobel Prize’s 50-year history. She said she hoped the award would inspire other female economists as well as “men to give them the respect they deserve, like every single human being.”
In a broader quest to global poverty alleviation, we’re another step closer to practical and measurable solutions.