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Esther Duflo selected as a 2013 Dan David Prize laureate

Honored for research to alleviate poverty through disease prevention
Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics
Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics
Photo: Peter Tenzer | Peter Tenzer Studio

Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT, and a founder and director of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), has been selected as one of the five laureates of the 2013 Dan David Prize.

The prize, established in 2002, is an international enterprise endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. The award recognizes individuals who have left an indelible impression, whether “scientific, technological, cultural or social,” in one of three time dimensions: past, present, or future.

The future

Duflo will receive the Future Time Dimension award, which honors those whose work has the potential to significantly improve the world. This year’s future prize recipients were chosen based on their pioneering research, which has contributed to the advancement of preventive medicine.

Alfred Sommer, Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has also received a 2013 award in the Future Time Dimension category. Duflo will share the $1 million monetary prize (awarded in each Time Dimension) with Sommer. In addition, 10 percent of the money must also be donated to graduate students in the laureates’ respective fields, to help cultivate the next generation of scholars.

Alleviating poverty through disease prevention

Duflo was selected as a 2013 laureate because “she combines rigorous analytic methods and strong, randomized study design to puncture preconceptions and produce reliable measures of effects,” said the Dan David Prize judges. “While her work ranges across a spectrum of social conditions and strategies related to the alleviation of poverty, a number deal directly with the prevention of disease.”

The Dan David Prize International Board cited Duflo for her research on the long-term health effects of indoor-air pollution on women and children; insight into controlling the spread of malaria; findings on the benefits of combining targeted education on sexually transmitted diseases and fertility with financial incentives; and discovery that inexpensive incentives more than double the rate of completed immunizations in India.

Transforming development economics

Speaking of the award, Whitney Newey, the Carlton Professor of Economics at MIT and head of MIT’s Department of Economics, said, "Esther and the team she works with have had an important impact on the theory and practice of economic development. Their focus on careful thinking and empirical evidence has helped transform development economics in a way that blesses many of the world's poorest people."

Earlier this year President Barack Obama appointed Duflo to the President’s Global Development Council. She is also the recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal (2010), a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” (2009), and the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award (2011) for co-authoring Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (with Abhijit V. Banerjee, Ford International Professor of Economics at MIT).

Duflo will be presented the 2013 Dan David Prize for the Future Time Dimension at the annual awards ceremony held in Tel Aviv in June.

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Writer: Kierstin Wesolowski

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