Esther Duflo

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Esther Duflo Banerjee
Duflo in 2009
Born (1972-10-25) 25 October 1972 (age 51)
  • French
    American since 2012
EducationÉcole normale supérieure, Paris (BA)
School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (DEA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (PhD)[6]
(m. 2015)
AwardsNobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2019)
Princess of Asturias Awards (Social Sciences, 2015)
Infosys Prize (2014)
John von Neumann Award (2013)
Dan David Prize (2013)
John Bates Clark Medal (2010)
Calvó-Armengol International Prize (2010)
MacArthur Fellowship (2009)
Scientific career
FieldsDevelopment economics
Applied economics
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorAbhijit Banerjee[1]
Joshua Angrist[1]
Doctoral studentsDean Karlan[2]
Rema Hanna[3]
Nancy Qian[4]
Rachael Meager[5]

Esther Duflo Banerjee, FBA (French: [dyflo]; born 25 October 1972) is a FrenchAmerican economist[7] who is a professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is the co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL),[8] which was established in 2003.[9] She shared the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Abhijit Banerjee[10] and Michael Kremer,[11] "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty".[12]

Duflo is a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)[13] research associate, a board member of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD),[14] and director of the Centre for Economic Policy Research's development economics program. Her research focuses on microeconomic issues in developing countries, including household behavior, education, access to finance, health, and policy evaluation. Together with Abhijit Banerjee,[10] Dean Karlan,[15] Michael Kremer,[11] John A. List,[16] and Sendhil Mullainathan,[17] she has been a driving force in advancing field experiments as an important methodology to discover causal relationships in economics. Together with Abhijit Banerjee, she wrote Poor Economics[18] and Good Economics for Hard Times,[19] published in April 2011 and November 2019, respectively. According to the Open Syllabus Project, Duflo is the seventh most frequently cited author on college syllabi for economics courses.[20]

Early life and education[edit]

Duflo was born in 1972 in Paris, the daughter of pediatrician Violaine Duflo and mathematics professor Michel Duflo. During Duflo's childhood, her mother often participated in medical humanitarian projects.[21][22]

After studying in the B/L program of Lycée Henri-IV's Classes préparatoires, Duflo began her undergraduate studies at École normale supérieure in Paris, planning to study history, her interest since childhood. In her second year, she 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 described 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 connected to the Central Bank of Russia and, separately, for Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist who was advising the Russian Minister of Finance. The experiences at these research posts led 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".[21]

She finished her degree in history and economics at École Normale Supérieure in 1994 and received a master's degree from DELTA, now the Paris School of Economics, jointly with the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) of the Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) and the École Normale Supérieure, in 1995. Subsequently, she obtained a PhD degree in economics at MIT in 1999, under the joint supervision of Abhijit Banerjee and Joshua Angrist. Her doctoral dissertation focused on effects of a natural experiment involving an Indonesian school-expansion program, in the 1970s, and it provided conclusive evidence that in a developing country, more education resulted in higher wages.[21] Upon completing her doctorate, she was appointed assistant professor of economics at MIT. She has been at MIT ever since, aside from a leave at Princeton University in 2001–2002, and at the Paris School of Economics in 2007 and 2017.[23]


After earning her PhD in 1999, Duflo became an assistant professor at MIT. She was promoted to associate professor (with tenure) in 2002, at 29, making her among the youngest faculty members to be awarded tenure, and to full professor in 2003.[21]

Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee have taken a special interest in India since 1997. In 2003, she conducted a trial experiment on teacher absenteeism in 120 schools run by a non-profit group. By encouraging the teachers to photograph themselves with their students each day, she was able to reduce their absenteeism.[21]

In 2003, she co-founded Poverty Action Lab at MIT, which has since conducted over 200 empirical development experiments and trained development practitioners to run randomized controlled trials.[24] The lab has branches in Chennai, India and at the Paris School of Economics.[25] In 2004, together with several colleagues, Duflo conducted another experiment in India. It showed that taped speeches by women were more readily accepted in villages that had experienced women leaders. Duflo became increasingly convinced that communities supporting women candidates could expect economic benefits, but she experienced difficulty in convincing her peers.[21] Focused on assessing developments addressing social welfare, in 2008, she received the Frontier of Knowledge award for development cooperation.[26][27] Duflo entered the public sphere in 2013, when she sat on the new Global Development Committee, which advised former US President Barack Obama on issues regarding development aid in poor countries.[28]

Duflo is an NBER research associate,[29] a board member of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD),[30] and director of the Centre for Economic Policy Research's development economics program, where she serves as both a board member and a director.[31][27]

She was the founding editor of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, editor of The American Economic Review, and 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.[25]

She writes a monthly column for Libération, a French daily newspaper.[32]

She was the main speaker at the first Bocconi Lecture of Bocconi University in 2010,[33] followed in 2011 by Caroline Hoxby.

In 2020, it was announced that Duflo would become chair of the Fund for Innovation in Development, an organization hosted by the French Development Agency that provides grants to develop and scale interventions for poverty and inequality.[34]

Since August 2023, she holds a weekly chronicle on French radio station France Inter, "Le biais d'Esther Duflo"[35].

Personal life[edit]

Duflo is married to MIT professor Abhijit Banerjee; the couple have two children.[36][37] Banerjee was a joint supervisor of Duflo's PhD in economics at MIT in 1999.[21]

Selected works[edit]


In April 2011, Duflo released her book Poor Economics, co-authored with Banerjee. It documents their 15 years of experience in conducting randomized control trials to alleviate poverty.[38] The book has received critical acclaim. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen called it "a marvelously insightful book by the two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty."[39][40]

  • Banerjee, Abhijit V.; Duflo, Esther (2019). Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems. PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-950-0.
  • Banerjee, Abhijit Vinayak; Duflo, Esther, eds. (2017). Handbook of Field Experiments, Volume 1. North-Holland Publishing Company. ISBN 9780444633248.
  • Banerjee, Abhijit V.; Duflo, Esther (2011). Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 9781610390408.
  • Banerjee, Abhijit Vinayak; Duflo, Esther, eds. (2017). Handbook of Field Experiments, Volume 2. North-Holland Publishing Company. ISBN 9780444640116.
  • Duflo, Ester (2010). Le Développement Humain (Lutter contre la pauvreté, volume 1 (in French). Paris: Éditions du Seuil. ISBN 978-2021014747.
  • Duflo, Ester (2010). Le Développement Humain (Lutter contre la pauvreté, volume 2 (in French). Paris: Éditions du Seuil. ISBN 978-2021011876.
  • Duflo, Ester (2009). Expérience, science et lutter contre la pauvreté (in French). Paris: Fayard. ISBN 978-2818500071.


Duflo has published numerous papers, receiving 6,200 citations in 2017. Most of them have appeared in the top five economic journals.[25]


Nobel prize in Economic Sciences[edit]

Esther Duflo was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2019 along with her two co-researchers Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty". Duflo is the youngest person (at age 46) and the second woman to win this award (after Elinor Ostrom in 2009).[41][42][43]

The press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted: "Their experimental research methods now entirely dominate development economics."[12][44] The Nobel committee commented:

Banerjee, Duflo and their co-authors concluded that students appeared to learn nothing from additional days at school. Neither did spending on textbooks seem to boost learning, even though the schools in Kenya lacked many essential inputs. Moreover, in the Indian context Banerjee and Duflo intended to study, many children appeared to learn little: in results from field tests in the city of Vadodara fewer than one in five third-grade students could correctly answer first-grade curriculum math test questions.[44]

In response to such findings, Banerjee, Duflo and co-authors argued that efforts to get more children into school must be complemented by reforms to improve school quality.[44]

Responding by telephone to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Duflo explained that she received the prize "at an extremely opportune and important time" and hoped that it would "inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve, like every single human being."[45] She also revealed that she wanted to use the award as a "megaphone" in her fighting efforts to tackle poverty and to improve children's education.[46]

French President Emmanuel Macron offered his congratulations: "Esther Duflo's magnificent Nobel Prize is a reminder that French economists are currently among the best in the world and shows that research in that field can have concrete impact on human welfare."[47]

Much of the discussion related to the prize shared by Duflo and her co-laureates focused on their influential use of randomized controlled trials in designing their experiments.[48] Summarizing the research approach which she had utilized along with Banerjee and Kremer, Duflo said simply, "Our goal is to make sure that the fight against poverty is based on scientific evidence."[49]

Duflo came under criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party, currently in power in India due to the party's displeasure over her husband Abhijit Banerjee achieving the Nobel Prize. Many within the party derogatorily commented that Banerjee had been preferred by the Nobel committee over other Hindu academicians, due to him marrying a white European woman (viz Duflo), which was in violation of the Hindu preference for endogamy.[50]

Other awards[edit]



  1. ^ a b Duflo, Esther (1999), Essays in empirical development economics. PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  2. ^ Karlan, Dean S. (2002), Social capital and microfinance. PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  3. ^ Hanna, Rema (2005), Essays in development and environmental economics. PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  4. ^ Qian, Nancy (2005), Three essays on development economics in China. PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  5. ^ Meager, Rachael (2017) Evidence aggregation in development economics via Bayesian hierarchical models. PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  6. ^ a b "Esther Duflo CV" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Esther Duflo Short Bio and CV".
  8. ^ Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  9. ^ Biswas, Soutik (15 October 2019). "The Nobel couple fighting poverty cliches". BBC. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  11. ^ a b Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  12. ^ a b "The Prize in Economic Sciences 2019" (PDF). Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: Nobel prize. 14 October 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  13. ^ Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  14. ^ Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  15. ^ Retrieved July 25, 2020, Saturday
  16. ^ "John List – Home Page". Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  17. ^ Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  18. ^ Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  19. ^ Retrieved July 24, 2020, Friday
  20. ^ "Open Syllabus Project".
  21. ^ a b c d e f g "The Poverty Lab". The New Yorker. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  22. ^ Gapper, John (17 March 2012). "Lunch with the FT: Esther Duflo". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Esther Duflo – The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  24. ^ Clement, Douglas (December 2011). "Interview with Esther Duflo". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  25. ^ a b c "Esther Duflo receives honorary doctorate in November 2019". Erasmus School of Economics. 28 August 2018. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  26. ^ "BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award Given to J-PAL". J-PAL. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Esther Duflo". Famous Economists. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  28. ^ "France's Esther Duflo becomes the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics". Business France. 16 October 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  29. ^ "NBER Research Associates and Faculty Research Fellows in Economics of Education". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  30. ^ "BREAD Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 4 March 2011.
  31. ^ "Program Directors in each Program of CEPR". Archived from the original on 22 June 2011.
  32. ^ Marshall, Jane (11 January 2009). "France: Duflo: economics can change the world". University World News. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  33. ^ "Bocconi Lecture – Esther Duflo, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology". 23 June 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  34. ^ Vince Chadwick (17 December 2020). "Exclusive: France to launch development innovation fund chaired by Esther Duflo". Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  35. ^
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "Esther's baby". Project Syndicate. 23 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  38. ^ "Poor Economics". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  39. ^ Editorial Review at
  40. ^ a b "Social Sciences, 2014: Esther Duflo". Infosys Prize. 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  41. ^ Johnson, Simon; Pollard, Niklas (14 October 2019). "Trio wins economics Nobel for science-based poverty fight". Reuters.
  42. ^ Jagannathan, Meera. "As Esther Duflo wins the Nobel Prize in economics, here's the uphill battle women face in the field". MarketWatch. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  43. ^ "Meet Esther Duflo, the Second Woman Ever to Win the Nobel Prize in Economics". Fortune. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  44. ^ a b c "Nobel Prize in Economics won by Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer for fighting poverty". The Guardian. 14 October 2019.
  45. ^ "The Latest: Duflo 'humbled' to win economics Nobel Prize". Times Colonist. Associated Press. 14 October 2019. Archived from the original on 14 October 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  46. ^ "Esther Duflo: 'Nobel Prize will be a megaphone'". BBC. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  47. ^ "Emmanuel Macron salue le "magnifique Prix Nobel" d'Esther Duflo" (in French). RTL: 5' minutes/AFP. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  48. ^ Smialek, Jeanna (14 October 2019). "Nobel Economics Prize Goes to Pioneers in Reducing Poverty: Three professors, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both of M.I.T., and Michael Kremer of Harvard, were honored". The New York Times. [A]s the years wore on and the results came in, randomized control trials gained acceptance as a key tool in development research. 'They provided a way to objectively check if a project has the benefits it says it is going to have,' said William Easterly, [another development] economist at New York University
  49. ^ Horsley, Scott; Neuman, Scott (14 October 2019). "3 Win Nobel Prize in Economics For Work in Reducing Poverty". All Things Considered. National Public Radio.
  50. ^ "Is Foreign Wife Criterion for Nobel Prize? After Goyal, BJP's Rahul Sinha Mocks Abhijit Banerjee".
  51. ^ "Announcement for Recipient of the 2002 Elaine Bennett Research Prize". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  52. ^ "The award for best young economist: The prize history of the Circle of economists". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  53. ^ "International bright young things", The Economist, 30 December 2008
  54. ^ "The Top 100 Public Intellectuals: Bios". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 25 January 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  55. ^ "Class of 2009 – MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  56. ^ American Academy of Arts and Sciences Book of Members, 1780–2010 Chapter D page.25
  57. ^ "Prof. Esther Duflo Wins the Inaugural Calvó-Armengol Prize". 20 May 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  58. ^ "American Economic Association". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  59. ^ "40 under 40: My first job". Fortune. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  60. ^ "Inaugural lecture by Esther Duflo at the conferral of her honorary doctorate, Université catholique de Louvain (French)". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012.
  61. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  62. ^ Foroohar, Rana (21 April 2011). "The 2011 Time 100". Time. Archived from the original on 24 April 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  63. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on 30 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  64. ^ "UCLA Anderson Announces 2012 Gerald Loeb Award Winners". UCLA Anderson School of Management. 26 June 2012. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  65. ^ "Esther Duflo selected as a 2013 Dan David Prize laureate". MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  66. ^ "Décret du 14 novembre 2013 portant promotion et nomination" (in French). Journal officiel de la République française. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  67. ^ "Esther Duflo wins Princess of Asturias Social Science prize". Euronews.
  68. ^ "Esther Duflo – Laureates". Fundación Princesa de Asturias. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  69. ^ "Esther Duflo is the 2015 A.SK Social Science Award Winner | WZB". 12 April 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  70. ^ Honorary Doctorates - website of the Erasmus University Rotterdam
  71. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

External links[edit]