When will an Asian Win the Nobel Prize in Economics?

October 1st, 2014 by Hubert Fromlet, Kalmar

So far, we have not seen many winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics – or more exactly “The Riksbank’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” – who had their roots in emerging countries. Arthur Lewis (1979) from St.Lucia and Amartya Sen from India (1998) were two positive exceptions. But what about the chances that an Asian economist may win the Nobel Prize this year again?

There are altogether 200-300 serious candidates for the Nobel Prize in Economics. Usually, the award goes to American economists – but not necessarily. Among candidates with Asian roots – Israel and Japan excluded in this context – I see clearly Avinash Dixit as the strongest candidate for 2014(born in Mumbai, India) , nowadays working as a professor at Princeton University, dealing with microeconomics, industrial organization, public economics, international trade plus growth and development theories. Dixit is also included in my own list of the “Top 10 Favorites” that will be published on October 3.

Dixit’s main challengers from Asia should be free trade supporter Jagdish Bhagwati (New York University) from India and Partha Dasgupta (University of Cambridge) from Bangladesh. Dasgupta has done important research on the environment which is so badly needed for emerging countries – but also on poverty, nutrition and knowledge. One should not either forget the very important field research of Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) with focus on development economics, many times taking research results from his home country India. The main outsider with roots in Asia could be Hashem Pesaran (with roots in Iran, econometrics and empirical macroeconomics). Sendhil Mullainathan – born in Tami Nadu/India – can develop to a serious Nobel Prize candidate but is currently still by far too young (research areas: behavioral finance, development economics).

Another well-known and important economist from the emerging-country world is, of course, Hernando de Soto from Peru (corruption, informal economy, institutions). (Almost) the whole continent of South America is still waiting that the Nobel Prize Committee will give him the highest award for economic research. However, it may be the case that de Soto is judged as not being sufficiently anchored in the academic economic world of models and mathematics.

But if this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics is not going to one of the names mentioned above it remains possible that other representatives of “growth and development” will be awarded, probably from the U.S. This would be another way to put more emphasis on emerging markets.

On October 13, we will know more about it. Competition with other economists and research areas is tough.


Hubert Fromlet
Senior Professor of International Economics, Linnaeus University
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