For the first time since the award was first given out in 1969, the Nobel Prize in economics has gone to a woman.
Americans Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University and Oliver Williamson of the University of California, Berkeley, are sharing the honor and the $1.4 million that comes with it, the Nobel Committee announced this hour.
Challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories.
It says that Williamson, born in 1932 in Superior, Wis.:
Has argued that markets and hierarchical organizations, such as firms, represent alternative governance structures which differ in their approaches to resolving conflicts of interest.
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Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. Ostrom just spoke with Michele Norris of All Things Considered. She told Michele that as a young woman, she wasn't allowed to study trigonometry because she was going to be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen":
Update at 11:35 a.m. ET:UCBerkelyNews writes that Williamson, a professor emeritus of business, economics and law, studies "how varying organizational structures for markets and institutions affect economic activity." His work, "is said to have influenced everything from electricity deregulation in California to investment in Eastern Europe to human resource management in the technology industry."
Update at 11:25 a.m. ET: We kid you not, the Nobel Prize Committee's online audio interview of Ostrom was done by a man named Adam Smith, who is editor-in-chief of Nobelprize.org. Ostrom says she hopes being the first woman to win the award will help raise the profile of other women in her profession. On her work, Ostrom says she considers her work to be about "political economy. ... I've crossed disciplines, there's no question about it" because it involves people being involved in their own governance.
Elinor Ostrom's field of expertise — the economics of common pool resources — sounds tough for a layman to digest.
It isn't. The first woman to win a Nobel economics prize, announced today, emphasizes in her work, for example, how pools of users manage natural resources as common property, such as how lobster fishermen in Maine in the 1920s came together to self-police the industry due to too many of the sea creatures being captured threatened their extinction.
Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. On Morning Edition, NPR's Jim Zarroli told host Steve Inskeep that the two winners brought "economic governance" from the fringe to the forefront of economic research:
The committee said that the decision wasn't influenced by the financial crisis, but it's hard to look at the research and not see some connection to concerns raised by the Great Recession.
Bloomberg News says that Ostrom told reporters that "My first reaction was a great surprise and appreciation. ... There are many people who have struggled mightily and to be chosen for this prize is a great honor."