Economist Abhijit Banerjee shared the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty. Born in 21st February 1961, to both economist parents in Mumbai, Abhijit is currently the Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also taught at Harvard University and Princeton University.
His work focuses on development economics. Together with his wife, Esther Duflo, he has discussed field experiments as an important methodology to discover causal relationships in economics. They try to measure the effectiveness of actions, such as government programmes, in improving people’s lives. Although polio vaccination is freely available in India, many mothers were not bringing their children for the vaccination drives. Banerjee and Esther Duflo conducted an experiment in Rajasthan, where they gifted a bag of pulses to mothers who vaccinated their children. Soon, the immunization rate went up in the region. In another experiment, they found that learning outcomes improved in schools that were provided with teaching assistants to help students with special needs.
Apart for his research that helped millions of people across the world, he wrote books about economics which are easy to read and understand, enabling even non-economic field readers to quickly grasp the knowledge the books have to offer. Good Economics for Hard Times (2019) looks into how the resources to address issues such as immigration, globalisation, slow economic growth, climate change are already there but we lack the ideas to overcome the divide and distrust that plagues us. In Poor Economics (2011), Abhijit says that by paying attention to evidence, one can not only understand the real causes of poverty but can also assess how to end it. They argue that most charitable organisations want to help the poor but their assumptions are based on generalisations. It looks at how the impoverished make decisions on education, savings, healthcare, food and other issues. Making Aid Work (2007) states that foreign aid can lend a helping hand in reducing poverty. Banerjee says that while billions of dollars flow in to poor countries, they are not used effectiently. Lack of analysis causes considerable waste and inefficiency in this regard. He suggests that donors should conduct randomised controlled trials (RCT) – a method Banerjee and Duflo have mastered.
In 2013, he was named by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to a panel of experts tasked with updating the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. In 2014, he received the Bernhard-Harms-Prize from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. In 2019, he delivered Export-Import Bank of India’s 34th Commencement Day Annual Lecture on Redesigning Social Policy. And in the same year, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, together with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, for their work alleviating global poverty.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Abhijit Banerjee criticised the government for their poor decision making which resulted in the pandemic reaching the high rates that it is in now. He also said that the healthcare system is built in a way that does not benefit the underprivileged. He expressed his concerns about the pandemic getting worse and how it will affect the world economy in the long term.