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Nobel laureate: some challengers and a French woman in the running

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Miguel RIOPA – | The French economist Esther Duflo, October 22, 2015 in Oviedo, Spain

The 2017 season of the Nobel Prize ends on Monday with the price of economy that could crown research rarely put forward, like those led by the French Esther Duflo, on poverty and development.

The Nobel Prize, officially awarded by the Bank of Sweden in economics in memory of Alfred Nobel, was awarded for the first time in 1969 and is to be awarded on Monday at 09:45 GMT in Stockholm.

The award will end a season marked by Kazuo Ishiguro’s coronation in literature and the Peace Prize awarded to ICAN, a coalition of NGOs, for his commitment to nuclear weapons in the midst of international tensions with Iran and North Korea.

After specialists in contract theory, British-American Oliver Hart and Finn Bengt Holmström rewarded in 2016, several names circulated in the media and academia.

Economist Avner Offer, co-author of the book “The Nobel Factor” (2016) with Gabriel Söderberg, sees the prize return to the French Esther Duflo, 44, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) specializing in development economics, an area rewarded only twice in 48 years.

– 67 years of average age –

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – ERIC PIERMONT – | The American economist Paul Romer, January 31, 2017 in Paris

“She is a pioneer in the randomized controlled trial (RCT), which has become a major current in economics over the past 20 years,” the economist said.

This method, inspired by medical RCTs, attempts to measure the impact of care to evaluate the treatment studied, on two population groups (a “random group” and a “control group” who do not benefit from treatment). With these experiments, it is possible to compare the effects of a program with what would have happened if it had not been introduced. It thus makes it possible to judge the devices put in place and their effectiveness.

Esther Duflo would be the second woman to get the Nobel of economy, after the American Elinor Ostrom in 2009.

The economy is perhaps the Nobel where the profile of the winner is the easiest to guess: a man over 55 years of American nationality. In the last 20 years, three-quarters of them corresponded to this description.

The average age of the prizewinners is 67 years since the award’s inception, the highest of the six prizes awarded. The American Leonid Hurwicz, winner in 2007 at 90 years, is the oldest nobleman to date.

The Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) spoke on Sunday to American Paul Romer, a 61-year-old researcher trained in Chicago and current chief economist at the World Bank, for having theorized “endogenous growth” since 1986. He could share his prize with his compatriot Robert Barro and / or the Frenchman Philippe Aghion.

Contacted by AFP, Gabriel Söderberg focuses on topics related to the economy of the environment and climate change.

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | Nobel Prize 2017

The Americans Martin Weitzman and William Nordhaus, specialists in the economic consequences of global warming, are in the air. Names also cited by DN.

– ‘Ideological’ motives

However, Avner Offer and Gabriel Söderberg recalled that the Nobel Committee greatly favored research that was considered neoliberal. Out of 78 laureates, more than a third of them are thus attached to the University of Chicago, within the walls of which developed the economic school of the same name, a current of thought carried by Milton Friedman.

In their work, “Economy, Social Democracy and Market Conversion”, the two economists describe the circumstances of the creation of the prize in 1968 and the “ideological” motivations, rather than the scientific ones, which presided over the choice of the winners.

Liberal-critical economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Robert Shiller and Paul Krugman have certainly been rewarded by the Nobel, but they remain marginal.

In broad outlines, the authors, respectively Professor at Oxford and researcher at Uppsala, explain that the Bank of Sweden created this prize in order to assert its independence from the interventionist policy of Social Democratic governments.

By setting them aside for the virtues of science, the creators of the prize intended to “de-ideologize” their conversion to the market and the doctrine of natural regulation between socio-economic agents, which has never been validated by experience, Offer and Söderberg.

Each Nobel consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a check for nine million Swedish crowns (about 943,000 euros).

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