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Speculation Abounds Over Who Will Win Economics Nobel

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Speculation Abounds Over Who Will Win Economics Nobel

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Speculation Abounds Over Who Will Win Economics Nobel

Speculation Abounds Over Who Will Win Economics Nobel

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The top contenders for the Nobel Prize in economics are said to be a pair of NYU professors who study entrepreneurship, and a Stanford researcher who did pioneering work into economic sociology.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The last of the Nobel prizes will be awarded this morning, and they come in the field of economics. The prize is cash award of more than a million dollars. The money will be divided if there's more than one winner, as is usually the case. NPR's Jim Zarroli joins me now to talk about the prize. Hi, Jim.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: There's always a lot of hype and speculation about who will win the Nobel. What are people saying this year?

ZARROLI: Yeah, there always is a lot of speculation. People even bet on it. And a lot of the speculation is wrong a lot, but people do it anyway.

MARTIN: Doesn't stop them.

ZARROLI: No. Thomson Reuters has mentioned several people as being likely contenders. One is the French economist Philippe Aghion of Harvard, and also Canadian Peter Howitt of Brown. They’re very influential in what's called "Schumpeterian Growth Theory," which is named after the great Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. They study the design of growth policies by governments. Also, two professors from NYU – Israel Kirzner and William Baumol have done a lot of research in entrepreneurialism. If Baumol wins, he would be the oldest economics winner ever. He's 92, and then finally, Mark Granovetter, department of Sociology at Stanford. He studies the ways that social networks and institutions and people interact and shape each other. He's famous for a paper he wrote called "The Strength Of Weak Ties," which has been very influential in economics.

MARTIN: OK, but if he’s a sociologist, he can win the Nobel Prize in economics?

ZARROLI: He absolutely can. You don't have to be an economist to win the economics prize, you just have to do work that is of interest to economists. And there have been a few who came from other disciplines – Daniel Kahneman, who shared the prize in 2002, was a psychologist. He did some very important work in behavioral economics. Then there was Eleanor Ostrom of Indiana University, who is still the only woman ever to win the prize. She was a political scientist who studied economic governance. Now, that being said of course, the overwhelming majority of the winners of the economics Nobel Prize are, in fact, economists.

MARTIN: Even more than other Nobel Prizes, the field of economics is one that’s traditionally dominated by Americans. Will they fare well this year in the Prize?

ZARROLI: Yeah, yeah, it's a good bet. I mean, there have been 74 winners in 45 years that the economics Nobel has been given out. Of those 74, by my count, 50 were U.S. citizens, five of them had joint citizenship with some other country, so no other country comes close. And in the past decade actually, there has only been one winner who wasn't a U.S. citizen - that was Christopher Pissarides of Cyprus. Last year, three Americans won the award. Two from the University of Chicago - they were Eugene Fama and Lars Peter Hansen, and then one from Yale - Robert Shiller. So for whatever reason, you know, this has just been the kind of field that American economists, and in particular American Universities which employ the economists, have always led in.

MARTIN: And briefly Jim, the economics Prize is always the last Nobel to be awarded. Why?

ZARROLI: Yeah, it's different in some ways than the other. For one thing, the five Nobels – the other five Nobels – were established in Alfred Nobel's will. They were handed out starting in 1901. The economics Nobel was established by the Swedish Central Bank later, so in a way it's always been viewed a little differently than the others. But I, you know, it still carries with it a lot of prestige in the field and, of course, more than a million dollars.

MARTIN: NPR's Jim Zarroli. Thanks so much, Jim.

ZARROLI: You’re welcome.

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