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France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

Photo: AFP | French economists Esther Duflo and Thomas Piketty

Its economy may be in the doldrums, but France has at least one good reason to remain hopeful about the future. Almost one third of the world’s brightest, young economists have French passports, according to the IMF.

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The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week published a list of 25 economists aged under 45 “who are shaping the way we think about the global economy.”

Unsurprisingly the list includes Thomas Piketty, the bestselling author of "Capital in the Twenty-First Century". But the IMF’s honour roll counts six other French nationals, more than any other country besides the United States.

Another prominent young economist to hail from France, although she has dual US citizenship, is Esther Duflo.

Duflo made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic in January 2013 when President Barack Obama named her as one of his advisors on global development policy.

Tackling taxes, bosses

Rounding out the list of French economists whose star is rising are Hélène Rey, 44, Emmanuel Saez, 41, Thomas Philippon, 40, Xavier Gabaix, 43, and Emmanuel Fahri, 35.

Their individual fields of study within economics is diverse, from the organisation of the international monetary system (Rey), to tax policy and fraud (Saez) and the salaries of corporate executives (Gabaix).

However, with the exception of Thomas Piketty, all of these distinguished French economists work outside the country; one at the London Business School (Rey) and the rest at elite universities in the United States.

In a league of their own

At 31, American Melissa Dell, who has studied the economic impact on the war on drugs, and Russian Oleg Itskhoki, who focuses on globalisation and wealth inequality, are the youngest economists on the IMF’s list.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), located two kilometres apart in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are the academic home to most of the young talent on the list.

Ten of the economists in the IMF’s “top 25 under 45” come from either Harvard or MIT.

The list, published in the IMF’s quarterly magazine “Finance & Development,” was compiled based on the opinion of readers, leading international economists, and other sources.

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