Esther Duflo

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Esther Duflo
Esther Duflo - Pop!Tech 2009 - 001 (cropped).jpg
Duflo at Pop!Tech 2009.
Born (1972-10-25) 25 October 1972 (age 46)
NationalityFrench and American
Spouse(s)Abhijit Banerjee (2015)
FieldSocial economics
Development economics
Alma materÉcole normale supérieure
École des hautes études en sciences sociales
Paris School of Economics (DELTA)
Abhijit Banerjee[1]
Joshua Angrist[1]
Dean Karlan[2]
InfluencesAmartya Sen[3]
Michael Kremer
AwardsJohn Bates Clark Medal (2010)
Calvó-Armengol International Prize (2010)
Dan David Prize (2013)
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Esther Duflo, FBA (French: [dyflo]; born 25 October 1972) is a French American economist, Co-Founder and Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Duflo is an NBER Research Associate,[5] serves on the board of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD),[6] and is Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research's development economics program.[7]

Her research focuses on microeconomic issues in developing countries, including household behavior, education, access to finance, health, and policy evaluation. Together with Abhijit Banerjee, Dean Karlan, Michael Kremer, John A. List, and Sendhil Mullainathan, she has been a driving force in advancing field experiments as an important methodology to discover causal relationships in economics.

Early life[edit]

Duflo was born in 1972 in Paris. Her father Michel Duflo was a mathematics professor and her mother was a doctor. At age 8, she decided to become a historian.[8]


After studying in Lycée Henri-IV's Classes préparatoires "B/L", Duflo entered her undergraduate studies at École normale supérieure in Paris to study history. In her second year at university, she questioned her future as a professor and began considering a career in the civil service or politics. She spent ten months in Moscow starting in 1993. She taught French and worked on a history thesis that told how the Soviet Union "had used the big construction sites, like the Stalingrad tractor factory, for propaganda, and how propaganda requirements changed the actual shape of the projects." In Moscow, she also worked as a research assistant for a French economist then connected to the Bank of Russia and, separately, for Jeffrey Sachs, the American economist at Harvard advising the Minister of Finance. The research posts helped her to conclude that "economics had potential as a lever of action in the world" and she could satisfy academic ambitions while doing "things that mattered".

She finished her degree in history and economics at École Normale Supérieure in 1994, and she received a master's degree from DELTA, now the Paris School of Economics, jointly with the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the École Normale Supérieure in 1995. Subsequently, she completed a PhD in economics at MIT in 1999, under joint supervision of Abhijit Banerjee and Joshua Angrist. Upon completing her PhD, she was appointed assistant professor of economics at MIT and has been at MIT ever since, aside from being on leave to Princeton University in 2001–2002.[9] She was promoted to associate professor (with tenure) in 2002, at 29, making her among the youngest faculty to be awarded tenure.

Personal life[edit]

Esther has one baby with co-researcher, former doctoral advisor, and MIT professor Abhijit Banerjee, and had lived together for 18 months before then. The baby was born in 2012.[10][11] Abhijit is a Professor at MIT and was a joint supervisor of Esther's PhD in economics at MIT in 1999.[12][10] Abhijit and Esther formally married each other in 2015.

Major contributions[edit]

Her PhD dissertation focused on effects of a natural experiment from data of an Indonesian school-expansion program of the 1970s to provide the first conclusive evidence that in a developing country, more education resulted in higher wages.

In 2003, she co-founded Poverty Action Lab at MIT, which has since conducted over 200 empirical development experiments and train development practitioners in running randomized controlled trials.


She won the 2014 Infosys Prize in Social Science-Economics.

She is a recipient of the 2010 John Bates Clark Medal for economists under 40 made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.[13] She received her (first) honorary doctorate from the Université catholique de Louvain, on 2 February 2010.[14]

In 2009 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, otherwise known as a "genius" grant.[15] She is also a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 2009.[16] On 21 May 2009 she was selected as the first recipient of the Calvó-Armengol International Prize, which she finally received on 4 June 2010. That is awarded every two years to a top young researcher in economics or the social sciences for contributions to the theory and comprehension of the mechanisms of social interaction.[17]

The US magazine Foreign Policy named her as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world in May 2008.[18] In 2010, Foreign Policy again named her to its list of top 100 global thinkers.[19] The Economist lists Duflo as one of the top 8 young economists in the world.[20] She was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in April 2011.[21]

In 2005, Le Monde, Cercle des économistes awarded her the Best Young French Economist prize.[22] She was awarded the Elaine Bennett Research Prize by the American Economic Association in 2002, which honours a female economist under 40 who has made outstanding contributions in any field of economic research.[23]

In 2012, Duflo was picked by Foreign Policy magazine as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers.[24] She shared the 2012 Gerald Loeb Award Honorable Mention for Business Book for Poor Economics with co-author Abhijit Banerjee.[25]

She received the 2015 Princess of Asturias Social Sciences award in Spain.[26][27]

Other professional activities[edit]

She was the founding editor of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics and is a co-editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics and the Journal of Development Economics. Also, she is a member of the editorial committee of the Annual Review of Economics and a member of the Human Capital Research Programme within the International Growth Centre.

She is currently a co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT, and she writes a monthly column for Libération, a French daily.

She was the main speaker at the first Bocconi Lecture of Bocconi University in 2010,[28] followed in 2011 by Caroline Hoxby.


In April 2011, she released her latest book Poor Economics, co-authored with Banerjee. It documents their 15 years of experience in conducting randomized control trials to alleviate poverty.[29] The book has received a very positive acclaim. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen called it "a marvelously insightful book by the two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty."[30]

"Le Développment Humain (Lutter contre la pauvrete, volume 1)"

2010, Paris: Le seuil

2011, Italian translation: Feltrinelli

"La polique de l'autonomie (Lutter contre la pauvrete, volume 2)"

2010, Paris: Le seuil

2011, Italian translation: Feltrinelli

"Expérience, science et lutter contre la pauvreté" 

2009, Paris: Fayard[31]


  1. ^ a b Duflo, Esther (1999), Essays in empirical development economics. Ph.D. dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  2. ^ Karlan, Dean S. (2002), Social capital and microfinance. Ph.D. dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  3. ^ "Esther Duflo, première économiste du développement honorée de la médaille Clark — Sciences économiques et sociales". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Renowned French economist to join Obama's team". 1 June 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  5. ^ "NBER Research Associates and Faculty Research Fellows in Economics of Education". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  6. ^ BREAD Board of Directors Archived 2011-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Program Directors in each Program of CEPR Archived 2011-06-22 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Parker, Ian (2010-05-17). "The Poverty Lab". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  9. ^ "Esther Duflo - The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Gapper, John (16 March 2012). "Lunch with the FT: Esther Duflo". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 5 November 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Esther's baby". Project Syndicate. 23 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  12. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  13. ^ "American Economic Association". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  14. ^ Inaugural lecture by Esther Duflo at the conferral of her honorary doctorate, Université catholique de Louvain (French). Archived 2012-02-25 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Class of 2009 - MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  16. ^ American Academy of Arts and Sciences Book of Members, 1780–2010 Chapter D page.25
  17. ^ "Prof. Esther Duflo Wins the Inaugural Calvó-Armengol Prize". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Page not found - Foreign Policy". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Foreign Policy Magazine: Top 100 Global Thinkers". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  20. ^ "International bright young things", The Economist, December 30, 2008
  21. ^ Foroohar, Rana (21 April 2011). "The 2011 TIME 100 - TIME". Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via
  22. ^ "The award for best young economist: The prize history of the Circle of economists". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Announcement for Recipient of the 2002 Elaine Bennett Research Prize". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  24. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on 30 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  25. ^ "UCLA Anderson Announces 2012 Gerald Loeb Award Winners". UCLA Anderson School of Management. June 26, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  26. ^ "Esther Duflo wins Princess of Asturias Social Science prize". euronews.
  27. ^ "Esther Duflo - Laureates". Fundación Princesa de Asturias. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  28. ^ "Bocconi Lecture – Esther Duflo, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology". 23 June 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  29. ^ "Poor Economics - Poor Economics". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  30. ^ Editorial Review at
  31. ^ "MIT Economics".

External links[edit]