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Is There A Nobel Prize For Economics?

We Love Prof > Academia > Economics > History of The Nobel Prize In Economics

Nobel prizes have a long and illustrious history, although the Nobel Prize in Economics is a more recent addition to the tradition.

The original five Nobel Prizes were for the following fields:

  • Chemistry;
  • Literature;
  • Medicine
  • Peace; and
  • Physics

They were founded by the pioneering Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel in his will in 1895. He gave away a large portion of his wealth in order to establish the prizes.

The Nobel Prize for Economics, or, as it is known by its full name, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was actually created in 1968 by the Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden.

The original five Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901 in Stockholm, whereas the first Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded in 1969.

Interestingly enough, the awarding bodies of the Nobel Prizes also differ. Although the Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, and, since 1969, economics, is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, an independent organisation with its headquarters in Stockholm, the other three Nobel Prizes are awarded by different bodies.

For example:

  • the Nobel Prize in medicine is awarded by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute in Sweden;
  • the Nobel Prize in literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy; and
  • the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Although there are various awarding bodies for each Nobel Prize, the fact remains that becoming a Nobel Laureate and prize winner is often seen as the pinnacle of an individual’s career or achievements.

Stockholm. The Nobel Prize for Economics is awarded in Stockholm. The economics Nobel Prize is awarded in Stockholm. (Source: CC0 1.0, Snime, Pixabay)

History of The Economics Nobel Prize

As stated above, the Nobel Prize in Economics came into being in 1968, and as such, it was not one of the original prizes created by Alfred Nobel.

Nevertheless, Laureates in economics are announced at the same time as the other Nobel Prizes, and each economics Nobel Prize winner receives their award at the same Nobel Prize award ceremony as the other awards.

Overall, across the Nobel Prizes’ long history, there have been 585 Nobel Prizes awarded across the six fields, including economics, between the years of 1901 and 2017.

Specifically, when it comes to the amount of Nobel Prize holders in economics, between 1969 and 2017 there have been:

  • 49 prizes; and
  • 79 laureates.

There are conditions that allow for no Nobel Prize, in any of the six fields, to be awarded in a given year, for example, if no works are of sufficient importance to be awarded a prize. There were also a number of years during World War I and World War II when various Nobel Prizes were not awarded.

Interestingly, despite the lack of awards in certain years, there have been no years without a Nobel Prize winner in Economics. This is likely also helped by the fact that the prize was introduced long after World War II had concluded.

1974 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Eisaku Sato. Anyone awarded the economics Nobel Prize receives a similar medal. Those in receipt of the Nobel Prize for economics receive a gold medal, like this 1974 Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to Eisaku Sato. (Source: CC BY-SA 4.0, Awalin, Wikimedia Commons)

Winners of The Economics Nobel Prize

The first-ever recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1969 were Ragnar Frisch of Norway and Jan Tinbergen of the Netherlands for their theoretical research on econometrics.

The most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics is the 2017 Prize to Richard H. Thaler of the University of Chicago for contributions in the field of behavioural economics.

Nobel Prize winners receive a gold medal along with a monetary award, which can vary from year to year.

We outline below the other recent recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics over the past decade:

YearNameNobel Prize in Economics Awarded For
2017Richard H. ThalerBehavioural economics
2016Oliver Hart and Bengt HolmströmContract theory
2015Angus DeatonAnalysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare
2014Jean TiroleAnalysis of market power and regulation
2013Eugene F. Fama, Lars Peter Hansen, and Robert J. ShillerEmpirical analysis of asset prices
2012Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. ShapleyTheory of stable allocations and market design
2011Thomas J. Sargent and Christopher A. SimsMacroeconomics
2010Peter A. Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen, and Christopher A. PissaridesAnalysis of markets with search frictions

Over the years, there have been many famous economists who have been award the Nobel Prize in Economics for their economic theory. Some of the most famous recipients of the award include:

  • Milton Friedman, for his work in the fields of consumption analysis and monetary history, among other contributions;
  • Elinor Ostrom, for her analysis of economic governance;
  • Joseph Stiglitz, for his work in markets with asymmetric information; and
  • John Nash, for his work in the theory of non-cooperative games.

Of course, you don’t actually have to be an economist of the likes of Stiglitz or Friedman to be a recipient of the award.

Notable exceptions include figures such as Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist who, along with his colleague Amos Tversky, did much to contribute to the field of behavioural economics, particularly through the development of ideas such as prospect theory.

Although Kahneman received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, Amos Tversky was unable to receive the award, as he sadly passed away in 1996 and the award is not given posthumously.

Although it may appear a little controversial to award a non-economist a Nobel Prize in the field, there’s been plenty of other controversy surrounding the Nobel Prize in Economics.

For example, some have argued that the Nobel Prize in Economics should not be a Nobel Prize at all, as it was not one of the fields outlined by Alfred Nobel in his will.

In fact, Friedrich August von Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics along with Gunnar Myrdal in 1974, made the following announcement during his speech at the Nobel Banquet that:

“[…] if I had been consulted whether to establish a Nobel Prize in economics, I should have decidedly advised against it.

Regardless of your thoughts on whether the Nobel Prize in Economics should even exist, the fact is that for many economists, receiving the award can be a pinnacle of academic achievement, and it is a greatly coveted award that only a select few ever obtain.

Additionally, regardless of which school of economics you belong to, or what you believe the economic problems of today are, provided your research meets the rigorous quality standards required, you could potentially be nominated for a Nobel Prize, although it must be noted that the selection criteria is fairly rigorous.

The University of Chicago in winter. Many economists from the university have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. The University of Chicago has many affiliates who have won the economics Nobel Prize. (Source: Public Domain, Leefon, Wikimedia Commons)

Keeping Track of the Economics Nobel Prize

Usually, the current year’s Nobel Laureates are revealed in October each year, and the ceremony is held on 10 December, as this marks the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

As such, it is expected that the 2018 Nobel Prizes will be awarded in the same manner, and so the next ceremony should be on 10 December 2018.

When it comes to the previous recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics, the Laureates have been commended for their studies across a wide range of fields within economics, including:

  • Macroeconomics;
  • Behavioural economics; and
  • Game theory

Macroeconomics has been a particularly successful field when it comes to Nobel Prize Laureates, with over nine awards in the field to date. Additionally, the University of Chicago, which has a prestigious economics department, has also seen many of its affiliated colleagues receive the Nobel Prize in Economics.

As there are so many fields and subsets of economics, it can be difficult to keep on top of it all.

However, if you try to keep up to date with the latest economic news and trends, in both generalist news publications as well as specialised economics journals, then you may develop a sense of what topics are particularly relevant in a given year, and just who may be in receipt of the coveted award in upcoming years.

There are so many places where you can keep up to date with developments in economics, however, a great place to start is just by reading a few stable news publications, such as:

  • The Financial Times;
  • The Economist;
  • Reuters; and
  • BBC News

If you read such publications regularly, whether in paper format or online, you’ll quickly develop a sense of current economic issues and trends, which will only benefit you in your economics studies.

Equally, if you prefer a shorter read, you could choose to read economics blogs. There are many informative and entertaining economics blogs available on the internet, such as the Freakonomics blogs, which do not take very long to read.

Alternatively, you could listen to economics podcasts to get the latest information and studies that shed light on economics areas such as financial economics or international economics. There are a number of popular podcasts available as well, from Freakonomics Radio to the Economist Radio and beyond. If you type into google the kinds of blogs or podcasts you’d like to read or listen to, you’ll quickly be able to find topics that meet your interests.

If you’re looking for help on how to keep up to date with economics, or are struggling to keep up in class or university more generally, then you could always look at engaging an economics tutor from Superprof to help you in your studies.

Superprof tutors specialise in a wide range of subject areas, from mathematics and statistics to business and economics. Whether you prefer one on one tuition or classes held in small groups, Superprof has a tutor that is available to help you get the best results you possibly can, and deepen your appreciation of your subjects and course material.


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