This Monday, the Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Canadian David Card (Guelph, Ontario, 65), North American Joshua Angrist (Columbus, Ohio, 61 years old) and Dutch-American Guido Imbens (Netherlands, 58 years old) ) with the Bank of Sweden Prize for Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, more commonly known as Nobel Prize in Economics. The jury recognized Card for his “empirical contributions in the field of labor economics”, and Angrist and Imbens for their “methodological contributions in the analysis of causal relations”. In all three cases, moreover, the Academy positively mentions the use of so-called natural experiments in its research.
“Many of the big issues in the field of social science have to do with cause-and-effect relationships. How does immigration affect wages and employment levels? How can greater education affect a person’s future salary?” the jury asked in the statement in which the three names awarded this year were revealed. “These issues are difficult to resolve because we have nothing to compare them to. However, this year’s laureates have demonstrated that it is possible to answer these questions using natural experiments, in which, through fortuitous events or changes in policy, various groups of people receive different treatment”, they explain.
In addition to the undisputed leap in reputation brought about by a Nobel, the prize has an endowment of 10 million Swedish kronor (6.3 million reais). Half of this amount will be given to Card, a professor at the University of Berkeley who in 2014 received the Frontiers of Knowledge Award from the BBVA Foundation in Spain. The other half will be split between Angrist and Imbens, who work respectively at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University. The handover ceremony will take place on December 10th, in Stockholm.
“This year’s awardees provided us with new insights into the labor market and showed that conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from natural experiments. Its focus extended to other fields and revolutionized empirical investigation”, assessed the Swedish Academy’s jury. Two of the three winners have a US passport (Angrist and Imbens), a constant since the award began to be awarded: more than half of those awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to date are of this nationality. As is also customary, the three teach and do research at US universities.
In Card’s case, the Academy particularly emphasizes the importance of his work on the minimum wage —a matter of the day in a number of advanced economies— as well as on immigration and education in the labor market. Their research, the jurors note, “defied conventional wisdom” by showing, among other things, that increases in the minimum wage do not always generate job destruction. In the case of Angrist and Imbens, the decision underscores their ability to draw cause-and-effect conclusions from natural experiments.
This year’s edition, which concludes the series of Nobel advertisements, was characterized by the absence of women among the winners — only one, the Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, one of the Nobel Peace Prize winners. it has only been given to two women in its more than five decades of existence: the American Elinor Ostrom (winner in 2009) and the French Esther Duflo (2019). In each edition, the jury decides between “250 and 300 clear candidates” for the Nobel Prize in Economics, according to data mentioned by Hubert Fromlet, professor at Linnaeus University (Växjö, Sweden).
The history of the award
Although it is colloquially called the Nobel Prize in Economics, strictly speaking it is not a Nobel Prize as such, but rather the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Economics was not among the original disciplines covered by the award, as Alfred Nobel, its creator, did not include it among the five chosen categories: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. However, in 1969, almost 70 years later After the first awards ceremony, the Swedish central bank —considered the oldest in the world— decided to create it to celebrate its 300th anniversary.
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