Two Americans share Nobel prize for economics





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Published on Oct 13, 2009

2008_1021_nobel_medal_symbolReporting from Washington - Two Americans on Monday won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their seminal work on how people and organizations make decisions and cooperate outside traditional markets -- a growing area of research that scholars said was relevant to such pressing issues as climate change and the behavior of financial institutions.

Elinor Ostrom, a Los Angeles native who teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., became the first woman to win the prize for economics since it was first awarded 40 years ago.

She will share the $1.4-million award with Oliver E. Williamson, a professor at UC Berkeley. Ostrom and Williamson were cited for their research beginning in the early 1970s that helped to expand economics beyond the conventional analysis of market prices. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the pair established economic governance as a field of study that had "greatly enhanced our understanding of non-market institutions."

Ostrom, who received a doctorate in political science from UCLA in 1965, demonstrated how common natural resources such as pastures, woods and lakes could be successfully managed by user associations and other arrangements outside of government.

She "has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized," the Nobel economics committee said.

The panel said Ostrom based her conclusion on case studies, including her own fieldwork that began with her doctoral dissertation that studied institutional entrepreneurship and saltwater intrusion into a groundwater basin under the Los Angeles area.

She has conducted laboratory experiments and made use of other case studies, including research on grasslands in Mongolia that showed how nomad-dominated territories were better preserved by group-based governance than neighboring lands in Russia and China under central rule.

Ostrom said Monday that she was "very surprised" to be awakened at 6:30 a.m. by the news. Before her, 62 men had received the economics prize.


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