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Princeton's Angus Deaton wins Nobel in economics

British-American economist Angus Deaton has won this year's Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the award was announced in recognition of his analysis of poverty and welfare.

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Understanding poverty

The award-giving body announced Monday that this year's economics prize would be bestowed upon the British-American professor Angus Deaton, who lectures on economics and international affairs at Princeton University.

Deaton was chosen because of his comprehensive research on "consumption, poverty and welfare."

"To design economic policy that promotes welfare and reduces poverty, we must first understand individual consumption choices," the jury said upon announcing the 8 million Swedish crown (860,000 euros, $978,000) prize. "More than anything else, Angus Deaton has enhanced this understanding."

On his profile page on Stanford's website, Deaton describes his research as focusing "on the determinants of health in rich and poor countries, as well as on the measurement of poverty in India and around the world."

Poverty reduction

In a conference call with reporters after he was pronounced this year's winner, Deaton said he thought poverty reduction was key to alleviating the current migration crisis, but added that its effects would not be immediate.

"I think poverty reduction in poor countries will solve the problem but will not solve the problem in a very long time," the economist said, adding that the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe was the "result of hundreds of years of unequal development."

Within 30 minutes of the announcement, an informal poll on the Nobel Prize's website found that out of 442 respondents, only 30 percent had ever heard of Deaton's research on consumer choice and measures of well-being.

Prize with a difference

In his 1895 will, Swedish arms manufacturer and philanthropist Alfred Nobel set up awards for chemistry, physics, literature, medicine and peace, with the first prizes being awarded back in 1901. There was no award for economics which is why - strictly speaking - there's never been a real Nobel Prize for Economics.

Rather, the official title of the award announced Monday was the "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel."

And that award didn't materialize until 1968 when the Swedish central bank called it into being so as to mark its own 300th founding anniversary. The lender thought it would be useful to champion economic research and improve its own credentials as an objective financial institution.

Much-coveted award

Real Nobel Prize or not, the award is widely considered the highest honor an economist can get for research, as it legitimizes that person's school of thinking in the eyes of the general public.

In 2014, the lucky winner was French economist Jean Tirole, who received the award in recognition of his substantial research on the balance between free market forces and regulation.

The economics prize has frequently been the target of criticism as it has so far been awarded to a disproportionate number of Americans from the neoliberal school of thinking. Only one woman has been among the prize winners so far, namely US economist Elinor Ostrom.

And there's only one German who's ever clinched the award - Reinhard Selten, who impressed the jury with his game theory research back in 1994.

hg/cjc (dpa, Reuters)

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