Esther Duflo has said she is “humbled” by her success in winning this year’s Nobel prize for economics and hopes it will “inspire many, many other women”.
Prof Duflo was part of a trio, alongside her husband Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer, to win the prize.
Their work had “dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice”, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, said.
Prof Duflo is only the second woman to win the prize since it began in 1969.
At 46 years old, she is also the youngest recipient of the prize.
“Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised 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.
Prof Duflo’s husband was her PhD supervisor and their work, alongside that of Prof Kremer’s, has focused on poor communities in India and Africa. Their research helps show which investments are worth making and also what has the biggest impact on the lives of the poorest people.
For example, their research in India found a high level of absenteeism among teachers. They found employing them on short-term contracts, which would be extended if they had good results, led to significantly better test results for students.
Another project looked at how the demand for de-worming pills for parasitic infections was affected by price. They found that three quarters of parents gave their children these pills when the medicine was free, compared to just 18% when they cost less than a US dollar, which was still heavily subsidised.
The research has helped inform decisions on whether medicine and healthcare should be charged for and, if so, at what price.
Prof Banerjee and Prof Duflo both work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, while Prof Kremer works at Harvard University.
“I didn’t think it was possible to win the Nobel Prize in Economics before being significantly older than any of the three of us,” Prof Duflo said.
The trio will receive nine million Swedish krona (£728,000).
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the winners had introduced “a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty”.
It said they had broken the complex issue into “smaller, more manageable questions” making it easier to tackle.
“As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefited from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in school,” the Academy said.
“Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries.”
The Nobel economics prize – technically known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize – is the only award not created by philanthropist Alfred Nobel.
Instead, the economics prize was created by the Swedish central bank “in memory of Alfred Nobel” and first awarded in 1969.
Last year, William Nordhaus and Paul Romer won the prize for their work on sustainable growth.
The US economists’ research focused on how climate change and technology have affected the economy.
In 2017, US economist Richard Thaler, author of the best seller Nudge, won for his work in behavioural economics.
Since it was first awarded in 1969, Americans have dominated the awards.
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