Nobel winners’ approach to policy-relevant research valued at IDRC

October 31, 2019

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to three development economists — Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer — who pioneered the use of an experiment-based approach.

Paula Melo takes the weight of Gabriella Quelal for tracking nutrition and growth.
IDRC / Bartay

Well established in the field of medical sciences, their methodology can be used to test public policy interventions in health, education, credit, or other areas to fight global poverty. Research using this approach is contributing to IDRC’s goal of generating knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve the lives of people in the developing world. In particular, the multi-funder initiative, Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women, supported several policy intervention trials. Examples include research in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Pakistan. Indeed the work in Bangladesh — to identify incentives for families to put off marrying their daughters — involved two international institutions that were co-founded by Duflo and Banerjee: the Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-Pal).

Other IDRC-supported experiment-based research involves J-Pal and includes efforts to improve youth employment training in Egypt and to understand the success of a work-based learning program for youth  in South Africa. Using the same method, J-Pal evaluated several financial education components within large-scale social protection programs in Latin America and IPA is assessing how gender relations in the household affect women’s use of e-saving accounts in Tanzania.

Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer have played a significant role in creating demand among policymakers for evidence-based solutions and capacity among Southern-based researchers to carry-out experiment-based research. Our support for the Nairobi-based network, Partnership for Economic Policy, seeks to enhance this capacity, with funding for 45 small research projects with significant training and mentoring in methodologies that include experiment-based approaches.

IDRC congratulates the three economists and welcomes the decision to recognize their contribution to tackling global poverty.