This is a joint post with Vijaya Ramachandran.
A hearty congratulations to Esther Duflo, winner of this year’s John Bates Clark Medal! Since 1947 the American Economic Association has awarded the medal to “that American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” In our profession, the Clark Medal ranks second only to the Nobel Prize, and about 40 percent of medal winners have gone on to win a Nobel. Esther, a 37-year-old native of France, richly deserves this platinum honor.
We’re delighted, for many reasons. First, Esther has revolutionized development economics and has been a leader of what Angrist and Pischke call the “credibility revolution” in this and other fields. In a talk Esther gave last week at the University of Minnesota, she noted that one of the best things about this revolution is that it has made the brightest young people more excited about entering development economics than they were 15 years ago, when she was getting her start as a scholar.
Second, from the beginning Esther has been dedicated to bridging the gap between top-end research and development policy, through her work at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab and her participation in CGD’s Advisory Group, among many other activities. Bridging the gap between rigorous research and development policy is what CGD is all about and we cheer her accomplishments.
Finally, the prize highlights the changing nature of the economics profession. There have been 32 winners of the Clark Medal. The first 29 were men; two of the last three are women. Of the first 25 winners, all but 2 were American born; four of the last seven winners come from outside the U.S. Increasingly, the “American economist” for whom the medal is intended means someone working in the United States but not necessarily born here. Finally, of the first 28 winners, none focused on development economics; two of the last four winners have made major contributions to our field. In other words, American economics is becoming more open to the world in its membership and its intellectual focus.
Three cheers for Esther and the brilliance, energy, and commitment she has given to all of us!