‘Too much GDP, not enough real life’: Nobel winner lashes economists
Esther Duflo wants colleagues to prioritise poverty, and has a go at the ‘locker room’ culture of her field
Rock climbing is a bit like economics, according to Esther Duflo. When work and family allows, the youngest winner of a Nobel Prize in the discipline climbs in the south of France, or in her adopted home of Boston, Massachusetts.
Patience and discipline are key, the 47-year-old says. “You have to concentrate. It’s slow. It’s not competitive. You have to wait for your turn and for things to happen and you have to be careful. And then, a bit like empirical economics, when you’re trying to climb something, you have to try something out, you have a good theory of what might work out. But when you actually try it, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
It’s a good analogy for the painstaking approach she and her husband, fellow MIT academic Abhijit Banerjee, and their ex-colleague Michael Kremer, brought to tackling poverty over two decades, which earned them the profession’s highest accolade last month. As specialists in development economics – focused on how to promote living standards in low-income countries – the trio pioneered the use of randomised control trials. The experimental approach more common in scientific laboratories is now used to work out how to best help alleviate poverty...