Esther Duflo is the co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a research centre supporting scientifically informed policy-making to reduce global poverty. Prior to co-founding J-PAL in 2003, Esther was an assistant professor and then professor in the department of economics at MIT until she was appointed the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in 2005. Esther is also scientific director of J-PAL South Asia and previously served as co-chair of J-PAL’s Urban Services Initiative.
An economist specialising in poverty alleviation, Esther’s research designs and evaluates social policies with the aim of developing new ways to reduce global poverty. Esther co-wrote 'Poor economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty' with her research partner, Abhijit Banerjee, which won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011 and has been translated into 17 languages. The co-writers’ subsequent book, 'Good economics for hard times', won the Deutscher Wirtschaftsbuchpreis Best Business Book of the Year in 2020.
Beyond economics, Esther’s research spans health, education, financial inclusion, the environment and governance. Her work has received multiple awards including the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences (2015), the ASK Social Science Award (2015), Infosys Prize in Social Sciences and Economics (2014), the David N Kershaw Award (2011), a John Bates Clark Medal (2010) and a MacArthur "genius grant” Fellowship (2009).
In 2019, Esther was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics with Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer in recognition of their “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. Esther was the youngest person and second woman to receive this award.
Esther took a degree in history and economics from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1994 and completed a doctorate in economics at MIT in 1999. She is the editor of the American Economic Review, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. In 2021, she was made a commander of the Légion d'honneur of France.