Indian-American economist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Abhijeet Banerjee is one of the three economists who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for 2019. The other two are Banerjee’s fellow MIT professor Esther Duflo and Harvard-based Michael Kremer.
This year’s award has been given in recognition of their contribution to the field of experimental and developmental economics. The Nobel cites “their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”
This year’s Nobel laureates have taken massive economic problems of global poverty and hunger, impacting 700 million people globally, and have broken it down into smaller and more manageable questions.
The Nobel also attributes the research by them to fifty lakh Indian school children benefiting from remedial education initiatives and to subsidies for preventive healthcare.
Duflo is now the second woman and the youngest person to receive the award. Banerjee and Duflo are also the sixth couple to win the Nobel Prize. The first couple to win the Nobel were Pierre Curie and Marie Curie, who won the award in 1903 for their discovery of two new elements – polonium and radium.
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Banerjee finished his initial education in India – with a Bachelor’s from the University of Calcutta in 1981 and a Master’s from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in 1983. He later finished his PhD from Harvard in 1988.
Banerjee is a U.S. citizen who co-founded the Abdul Lateef Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which ensures policy is informed by scientific evidence. The organisation is known for conducting ‘randomised control trials’ which has become standard for establishing causal relationships in economics.
He is currently serving as the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT, according to his official biography with the university. He is further known for authoring the popular book ‘Poor Economics.’
Banerjee has often been critical of the Modi-government.
On demonetisation, he wrote about the absurdity of the exercise, the futility of introducing the ₹2000 note and suspected that the “pain was much greater than anticipated.” He also wrote about the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), where he said that the party in its current form has eroded the true values that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) stood for.
Finally, he wrote of introducing apprenticeships for government jobs at the time of the government introducing reservation for economically weaker sections of society in January this year, calling the country’s social policy framework obsolete.
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