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Abhijit Banerjee: MIT professor whose work on poverty alleviation won him a Nobel

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, 58, was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D in 1988.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 14, 2019 5:27:20 pm
nobel prize, nobel prize for economics, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, nobel prize economics winner, nobel Indian-American Economist Abhijit Banerjee has won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer

Indian-American Economist Abhijit Banerjee was among the three recipients of the prestigious 2019 Nobel prize for Economics announced Monday. Banerjee shares the prize with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”

Both Banerjee and Duflo, who incidentally are a couple and have written a noted book titled Poor Economics, are associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while Kremer is with the Harvard University.

The Academy said the work of the three economists had shown how the problem of poverty could be tackled by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare, making problems easier to tackle.

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, 58, has degrees from the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D in 1988. In 2003, he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and he remains one of the lab’s directors. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT.

Congratulating him on winning the Nobel, the Congress party said the renowned economist was a key consultant for the NYAY programme presented by the party as a poll promise ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said about him: “Another Bengali has done the nation proud. We are overjoyed.”

Banerjee is a former president of the Bureau for the Research in the Economic Analysis of Development, a Research Associate of the NBER, a CEPR research fellow, International Research Fellow of the Kiel Institute, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow and an Alfred P Sloan Fellow and a winner of the Infosys prize.

His book Poor Economics won him the Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011. Poor Economics has been translated into more than 17 languages.

In his latest piece published in The Indian Express in March this year, Banerjee wrote on India’s social protection system and how unorganised workers can be empowered to access pensions or other income support programs.  In 2017, he co-wrote a piece with Esther Duflo, Dan Keniston, and Nina Singh on dealing with drunk driving in India.

Read all his columns here 

In February 2015, Banerjee and Duflo were guests at The Indian Express Idea Exchange where they spoke about their experiments with social sector schemes in India, why NREGA does a “poor” job of identifying the needy and how RTE has contributed to worsening learning levels in schools.

MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are known for using ‘randomised controlled trials’ to evaluate the success or failure of government intervention programmes. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab has undertaken several such “field experiments” to see how MGNREGA, micro-credit and other social welfare schemes have worked on the ground. They had also conducted a series of programmes with NGO Pratham to see if educational outcomes can improve by teaching children on the basis of their learning levels rather than their grades.

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