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Townsend wins Laffont Prize in Economics

Development economist to receive French award.
MIT economist Robert M. Townsend, an expert in the ways financial systems and practices can contribute to the growth of developing economies, has been named winner of the Jean-Jacques Laffont Prize in economics for 2011.

Townsend, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT, will receive the award in January 2012 in Toulouse, France, where he will give a lecture titled “Financial Design and Economic Development.”

The Laffont Prize has been awarded annually since 2005, to an “international high-level economist whose research, in the spirit of Professor Jean-Jacques Laffont, combines both the theoretical and applied aspects of economics.” The award is given by the city of Toulouse and the Institute of Industrial Economics (IDEI), a research center that is part of the University of Toulouse.

Laffont (1947-2004) was an influential economist who studied public economics, regulation, information theory and other topics related to economic development. He founded IDEI in 1990.

Townsend joins two prior Laffont Prize winners from the ranks of the MIT faculty: economists Peter Diamond and Stephen Ross. Among the award’s seven winners, three have also won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Townsend is author of dozens of articles and numerous books, including The Medieval Village Economy (1993), Households as Corporate Firms (2010), and Financial Systems in Developing Economies (2011). In recent years he has conducted microeconomic studies and field experiments in Thailand to see how finance systems influence economic decision-making and may contribute to growth.

Townsend also heads the Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty, an economic research institute.

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