This year's Nobel prize in economics was awarded to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom. But more precisely, this year's Nobel prize in economics was awarded to no one, because there is no such prize. Matt Yglesias explains:
The social science world awoke to sad news this morning: Elinor Ostrom, the Indiana University political scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, lost her battle with cancer this morning at a hospital in Bloomington, Indiana. Ostrom?s research focused on common-pool resources, like fish stocks, timber, or water. CPRs are similar to ...
… Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom share the Swedish Central Bank Prize for Economics in Honor of Alfred Nobel. Alex Tabarrok explains Ostrom’s work and Paul Krugman tells you about Williamson. Osrtom is the first woman to win the prize and is also noteworthy for being a political scientist rather than an economist.
It's a nod in the direction of social science, rather than economics per se. It's another homage to the New Institutional Economics and also to Law and Economics. It's rewarding larger rather than smaller ideas, practical economics rather than abstract theory. It's a prize somewhat outside of the mainstream. As you probably know by now, Ostrom is a political scientist and she has spent much of her career
Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Economics, speaks to host Michele Norris. Ostrom, a 76-year-old professor of political science at Indiana University, shares the $1.4 million prize with another American — Oliver Williamson of the University of California, Berkeley — for their work into economic governance. Ostrum was cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for her research into how natural resources or "common property can be successfully managed by user associations."
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for 2009 to Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University, USA, “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons” and Oliver E. Williamson, University of California, Berkeley, USA, “for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm.”
Elinor Ostrom may arguable be considered the mother of field work in development economics. She has worked closely investigating water associations in Los Angeles, police departments in Indiana, and irrigation systems in Nepal. In each of these cases her work has explored how between the atomized individual and the heavy-hand of government there is a range of voluntary, collective associations that over time can evolve efficient and equitable rules for the use of common resources.