US duo, including first female economics laureate, takes Nobel

American economists Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson have won the 2009 Nobel prize for economics for their work on economic governance. Ostrom is the first woman to win the economics prize.


AFP - Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson of the United States won the 2009 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for their work on the organisation of cooperation in economic governance, the Nobel jury said.

Ostrom is the first woman to win the Economics Prize, which has been awarded since 1969.

"The research of Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson demonstrates that economic analysis can shed light on most forms of social organisation," the jury said.

Ostrom won half the 10-million-kronor (1.42-million-dollar, 980,000-euro) prize "for her analysis of economic governance" especially relating to the management of common property or property under common control.

Her work challenging the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatised, it added.


A professor at Indiana University whose name has circulated as a possible winner in recent years, Ostrom told Swedish television her first reaction was "great surprise and appreciation," and said she was "in shock" over being the first woman to clinch the honour.

She conducted numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes and groundwater basins, and concluded that the outcomes are "more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories," the jury said.

Williamson was honoured with the other half "for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm."

He has argued that hierarchical organisations such as firms represent alternative governance structures, which differ in their approaches to resolving conflicts of interest.

"A key prediction of Williamson's theory, which has also been supported empirically, is ... that the propensity of economic agents to conduct their transactions inside the boundaries of a firm increases along with the relationship-specific features of their assets," it said.

The Economics Prize is the only one of the six Nobel prizes not created in Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel's 1896 will -- it was created much later to celebrate the 1968 tricentary of the Swedish central bank and was first awarded in 1969.

Last year, the honour went to US economist Paul Krugman, a prolific New York Times columnist and fierce critic of Washington's economic policies, for his "analysis of trade patterns."

The Economics Prize wraps up the 2009 Nobel season.

Americans dominated the awards this year.

For the five Nobel prizes announced last week -- for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace -- nine of the 11 laureates were US citizens, including US President Barack Obama who sensationally won the prestigious Peace Prize for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

The Literature Prize went to German writer Herta Mueller for her work inspired by her life under Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship in Romania.

This year was also a record year for women laureates, with four honoured: Herta Mueller for literature; Australian-American Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider of the United States were awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize; and Ada Yonath of Israel was one of three scientists recognised for her work in chemistry.

The Nobel prizes, founded by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, were first awarded in 1901.

Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, died childless in 1896, dedicating his vast fortune to create "prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

Laureates receive a gold medal, a diploma and the prize sum at formal prize ceremonies held in Stockholm and Oslo on the anniversary of Nobel's death, December 10.

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