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Economics Nobel rewards research that tackled poverty
The Nobel committee said that the winners have helped break down complex dimensions of poverty into simpler micro-level (smallest unit of analysis in the social sciences) problems
By conferring (to give an honour) the Nobel prize for economics on poverty researchers Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, the Nobel committee has once again sent out a message that economics must address pressing (urgent) concerns of the people rather than merely confine itself to arcane (complicated and understood by few people) pursuits, such as the intricacies (detail that is part of something complicated) of derivatives trading. In its citation (a word or piece of writing taken from a written work), the Nobel committee has said that the winners of 2019 have helped break down the complex dimensions of poverty into simpler micro-level problems, such as education for girls and sanitation, for which specific policy solutions can be more easily tailored (changed especially to make it suitable for a particular situation) for a particular region. The Academy observes that as a result of micro-level studies, it was possible in India to tailor remedial education programmes that benefited five million children. Banerjee, who has created the Abdul Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in MIT, has worked with Duflo and Kremer in creating a methodology (a system of ways of doing) of ‘randomised control trials’ (RCTs) to assess the performance and potential of public policy. J-PAL has carried out over 500 RCTs in 10 countries, including India, which includes an audit of pollution control in Gujarat, MGNREGA schemes and numerous welfare schemes in Tamil Nadu. The studies in Tamil Nadu in partnership with the State government pertain to disease control, improving breastfeeding outcomes and dealing with anaemia (a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in pallor and weariness) in children. Banerjee has notably been in the news for actively backing the Congress’ Nyuntam Aay Yojana, which promised to provide an estimated ₹6,000 a month to 25 crore people estimated to be in need of income support. He has worked with French economist Thomas Piketty in pointing out the extent of wealth inequality in India, and in the context of NYAY observing that there was immense (extremely large) scope to raise money through taxes to fund such schemes. By focussing on poverty and the nature of policy instruments required to address it, Banerjee et al (and others)share the concerns of earlier Nobel prize winners who have focussed on poverty, such as Amartya Sen (1998) and Angus Deaton (2015).
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