Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and Harvard University professor Michael Kremer were awarded the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a news release.
"This year's laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty," the academy said Monday in the release, adding that their work "involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable questions — for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health."
Incorporating hands-on field experiments that tested the methods of alleviating poverty in some of the poorest villages and neighborhoods globally, the three professors, who often work together, focused on specific problems "such as failures in primary education to determine whether specific solutions were effective and efficient," said Bruce I. Jacobs, principal at Jacobs Levy Equity Management, in an email.
Mr. Jacobs said that the laureates divided their research subjects into groups and offer them "extra resources in different forms and at different times."
"For example, in Kenya they distributed extra textbooks to one random sample of schools, while another random sample was given free meals; the results showed that neither solution was effective," Mr. Jacobs said.
When additional field study using schools in India concluded that the problem was inadequate teaching, teachers were given contracts with renewals based on performance, and given supplementary help such as aides to help underperforming students. The actions yielded positive results.
"The laureates' work has had a profound effect on how development economics is pursued and has had direct effects on policy, including remedial support for schools in India and free distribution of medicine," Mr. Jacobs said.
"The kind of work we've done over the years, when we started, was marginal in economics," said Mr. Banerjee in a release issued by MIT following the academy's announcement. He added that the Nobel Prize is "great for the development field."
In the same release, Ms. Duffo said, "We're fortunate to see this kind of work being recognized."
Mr. Kremer added in a separate release issued by Harvard: "It can often seem like the problems of global poverty are intractable, but over the course of my lifetime and career, the fraction of the world's people living in poverty has dropped dramatically."