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Acemoglu wins Nemmers Prize

MIT economist granted award for ‘fundamental contributions’ on economics, politics and growth.
Economist Daron Acemoglu
Economist Daron Acemoglu
Photo: Allegra Boverman

MIT economist Daron Acemoglu has been named as the recipient of the 2012 Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, a major prize in the field.

The announcement was made this week by Northwestern University, which confers Nemmers prizes in economics, mathematics and musical composition. The awards are given “in recognition of major contributions to new knowledge or the development of significant new modes of analysis,” according to Northwestern; the economics prize in granted biennually.

“I am delighted, deeply honored and very much humbled,” Acemoglu told MIT News. “It’s a truly great honor to join such a distinguished cast of the most accomplished and senior scholars in economics,” he added, referring to the previous nine economists who have been given the prize.

“This prize has come to Daron at a relatively early point in his career,” said Whitney Newey, head of MIT’s Department of Economics. “MIT economics is thrilled at the recognition of his outstanding innovative work and influence.”

Northwestern cited Acemoglu for his “fundamental contributions to the understanding of political institutions, technical change, and economic growth.” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said in a statement that Acemoglu “does work that is relevant to a number of the most important questions facing the world today.”

Acemoglu is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. His work has ranged broadly across a number of topics, including economic growth, political institutions, technological change and labor markets.

Acemoglu’s best-known research, performed in part with Harvard University political scientist James Robinson and MIT economist Simon Johnson, has examined the relationship between political institutions and economic development. Acemoglu’s conclusion, from a broad analysis of economic history, is that sustained, long-term growth only occurs in nations with “inclusive” forms of government that grant a number of types of rights to citizens.

Acemoglu has developed this thesis in dozens of papers and three books, the most recent of which, Why Nations Fail, co-written with Robinson, was published last month and has landed on the bestseller list of The New York Times.

In 2005, Acemoglu won the John Bates Clark Medal, then awarded biennually (now annually) by the American Economic Association to a top economist under the age of 40.

According to Northwestern, five of the previous nine economists who have won the Nemmers Prize have later been awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; people who have already won the Nobel are not eligible for the Nemmers prizes. MIT’s Peter A. Diamond was awarded the first Nemmers Prize in economics, in 1994.

The previous recipients of the Nemmers Prize in economics are Diamond, Thomas Sargent, Robert Aumann, Daniel McFadden, Edward Prescott, Ariel Rubinstein, Lars Peter Hansen, Paul Milgrom and Elhanan Helpman.

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