Nobel Prize for poverty economist long time coming

Scottish economist and Princeton University professor Angus Deaton received the 2015 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences last Monday. He won the prestigious $975,000 award for his ongoing work on global poverty and inequality trends, which the award committee stated has "immense importance for human welfare, not least in poor countries."

Deaton's work is focused on the distribution of consumer spending, the spending and saving of society's income, and the best system for measuring and analyzing poverty. His 2013 book, The Great Escape, questioned the effectiveness of international aid to developing countries and was subsequently criticized by Bill Gates, one the world's biggest poverty-fighting philanthropists. According to the award committee's press release, "By linking detailed individual choices and aggregate outcomes, his research has helped transform the fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and development economics."

Deaton is the first economics Nobel laureate to address poverty since 1998, when Amartya Sen won for his work on the welfare committee. Meanwhile, the last three winners were honored for their work on market power, asset prices, and stable allocations — all more traditional "Wall Street" topics.

The Tartan applauds the award committee for highlighting important work on poverty, even if such attention is long overdue on an issue that affects billions worldwide. 836 million still live in extreme poverty and inequality is worse than ever.

The United Nations (UN) recently unveiled its new Sustainability Development Goals for 2030, and first on the list is eliminating poverty "in all its forms, everywhere." A lofty goal, many would think, but — due in part to the UN's Millennial Goals — global poverty rates have been cut in half since 1990. We can neither accept poverty as inevitable, nor become complacent when so much progress has already been made.

By honoring Deaton, the Nobel Prize committee proved that fighting poverty is a worthwhile career paths for economists. It took a major step toward shifting the public's attention away from Wall Street and toward more broadly impactful goals.