Esther Duflo has said she is “humbled” by her success in winning this year’s Nobel prize for economics and hopes it will “inspire many, many other women”.
Prof Duflo was part of a trio, alongside her husband Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer, to win the cash prize of nine million Swedish krona (£728,000).
Their work had “dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice”, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, said.
Prof Duflo is only the second woman to win the prize since it began in 1969.
At 46 years old, she is also the youngest recipient of the prize.
“Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognized for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve like every single human being,” she said.
Prof Duflo’s husband was her PhD supervisor and their work, alongside that of Prof Kremer’s, has focused on poor communities in India and Africa. Their research helps show which investments are worth making and has the biggest impact on the lives of the poorest people.
For example, their research in India found a high level of absenteeism among teachers. They found employing them on short-term contracts, which would be extended if they had good results, led to significantly better test results for students.
Another project looked at how the demand for de-worming pills for parasitic infections was affected by price. They found that three quarters of parents gave their children these pills when the medicine was free, compared to just 18% when they cost less than a US dollar, which was still heavily subsidized.
The research has helped inform decisions on whether medicine and healthcare should be charged for and, if so, at what price.