Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, wife Esther Duflo win Nobel in Economics: all you need to know about the prize-winning couple

  • Banerjee, born in 1961 in Mumbai, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Calcutta

  • Duflo received her undergraduate degree from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris in Paris in 1994, after studying both history and economics

  • In 2003, Banerjee founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with his French-American wife Duflo, who is also a MIT professor, and Sendhil Mullainathan

Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, who won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics jointly with his French-American wife Esther Duflo and another economist Michael Kremer on Monday, is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Duflo is the second woman and the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel in economic sciences.

Baneree, Duflo's early life

Banerjee, born in 1961 in Mumbai, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Calcutta, and a master's degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Banerjee had been educated in South Point School and Presidency College (now a university in the city) from where he graduated with a BSc in 1981.

After his class 12 examination, he had initially taken admission in the B Stat programme at the famed Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata but left it midway to study economics at Presidency College as ISI was far from his home, his Nirmala Banerjee mother recalled.

Physics was then an alternative, but he decided to take up economics, Nirmala said.

He earned his PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 1988. He spent four years on the faculty at Princeton University, and one year at Harvard, before joining the MIT faculty in 1993.

 Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, wife Esther Duflo win Nobel in Economics: all you need to know about the prize-winning couple

Esther Duflo, left, and Abhijit Banerjee won the Nobel Prize in Economics along with Harvard's Michael Kremer. PTI

He remains one of the lab's directors, according to the MIT website.

Banerjee is a past 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.

Duflo received her undergraduate degree from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1994, after studying both history and economics. She earned a master’s degree in economics the next year, jointly through the École Normale Supérieure and the École Polytechnique.

Duflo then earned her PhD in economics from MIT in 1999. She joined the MIT faculty the same year and has remained at MIT her entire career.

Poor Economics earns him the award

He is the author of a large number of articles and four books, including 'Poor Economics', which won the Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011.

The 'Poor Economics' has been translated into more than 17 languages.

"Why would a man in Morocco who doesn't have enough to eat buy a television? Why is it so hard for children in poor areas to learn, even when they attend school? Does having lots of children actually make you poorer? Answering questions like these is critical if we want to have a chance to really make a dent against global poverty," Banerjee wrote in the book 'Poor Economics'.

Duflo, recipient of many awards

Currently, Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT. Banerjee is the Ford International Professor of Economics at MIT.

In her research, she seeks to understand the economic lives of the poor, with the aim to help design and evaluate social policies.

Previously, Duflo has earned a series of awards and honors, including a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (2009), the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association (2010), and, also in 2009, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for Development Cooperation, MIT News said.

Duflo has also helped create an MITx MicroMasters program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, which the Institute launched in 2016.

Second woman to win Nobel in Economics

Asked at a press conference on Tuesday about the significance of being only the second woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, Duflo said she strongly wants to encourage other women to enter the discipline.

“There are not enough women in the economics profession at all levels,” Duflo said. “That has to change.” The issue, she noted, “is something the profession is starting to reckon with.” Banerjee, for his part, observed that development economics has a higher percentage of female scholars than other subfields within the discipline, and he agreed that women should be encouraged to become scholars in economics.

Directs documentary films

He is the editor of three more books and has directed two documentary films.

He also served on the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the website said.

In 2003, he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with his French-American wife Duflo, who is also an MIT professor, and Sendhil Mullainathan.

Happy and proud: Mother

Nirmala said it was a proud moment for her and she is very happy for his achievements. She said she is also happy as one of the joint winners of the prestigious award is her daughter-in-law Esther Duflo.

Nirmala herself is a former professor of economics at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences and her husband Dipak Banerjee was a professor and the head of the department of Economics at then Presidency College (now  University).

"I am very happy and proud of his achievements. I am yet to speak to him. I think he must be sleeping as it's still
night in the US," she said. "He was always a brilliant and a disciplined student," she recalled.

Proud day for JNU 

It was a proud day for Jawaharlal Nehru University as its alumnus Banerjee won the Nobel Economics Prize on Monday, with his former professors saying they expected his contributions to the field would be recognised soon.

Banerjee pursued his Masters in Economics from the university.

Professor Anjan Mukherjee, who taught Banerjee at the Centre For Economic Studies and Planning, said he has sent his former student a congratulatory email.

Banerjee, Duflo worked with Bandhan Bank

Banerjee and his wife Duflo were closely associated with Kolkata-based Bandhan Bank for an anti-poverty programme, a top official of the lender said on Monday.

Banerjee and Duflo were associated with Bandhan Bank in 2011, when it was a micro-finance institution (MFI), for analysing the impact assessment of anti-poverty programme - Targetting the Hard-Core Poor (THP).

"They (Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo) have closely worked with Bandhan for the THP programme. We share a close relation with both of them since 2006," MD and CEO of Bandhan Bank, Chandrasekhar Ghosh, told PTI.

With PTI inputs

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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2019 09:34:42 IST