UNSW’s Wallace Wurth Lecture: good economics for hard times

Nobel Prize winners Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee reveal how economics can help solve the thorniest social and political problems of our time.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Professor Abhijit Banerjee and Professor Esther Duflo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

UNSW Sydney’s 2020 Wallace Wurth Lecture, on 11 November, will feature 2019 Nobel Prize winners in Economics Professor Esther Duflo and Professor Abhijit Banerjee, in conversation with UNSW Business School’s Professor Richard Holden. In ‘Good Economics for Hard Times’, they will explore how cutting-edge economics can take on the challenges of inequality, technological disruption, slowing growth and accelerating climate change, and bring the world back from the brink.

Professor Duflo and Professor Banerjee won the Nobel Prize for their ground-breaking work on solving global poverty. Using their innovative research based on field experiments, they have created practical tools to improve education, health and economic wellbeing.

“We had two closely related ambitions. The first one was to contribute to improving the lives of the poor, here and now. The second was to build a better understanding of how they live their lives, from the ground up, by building a fuller picture, one question at a time,” Professor Duflo says.

Professor Holden describes the Nobel Prize winners as two of the world’s most influential economists and pioneers of randomised trials in development economics.

“Their book Good Economics for Hard Times tackles issues such as globalisation, automation, inequality, climate change and low economic growth in advanced economies. These issues were pressing before the coronavirus pandemic, and have only become more so in 2020. As Australia and other countries try to get their economies back on track we need, more than ever, what Banerjee and Duflo describe as ‘better answers to our biggest problems’,” Professor Holden says.

About the presenters

Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). In her research, she seeks to understand the economic lives of the poor, with the aim to help design and evaluate social policies. She has worked on health, education, financial inclusion, environment and governance.

Professor Duflo has received numerous academic honours and prizes including 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (with co-Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer), the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences (2015), the A.SK Social Science Award (2015), Infosys Prize (2014), the David N. Kershaw Award (2011), a John Bates Clark Medal (2010) and a MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Fellowship (2009).

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the MIT. In 2003, he co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) with Professor Duflo and Professor Sendhil Mullainathan, and he remains one of the Lab’s directors. Professor Banerjee is a past president of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development, a Research Associate of the NBER, a CEPR Research Fellow, International Research Fellow of the Kiel Institute, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and a winner of the Infosys Prize. Professor Banerjee has served on the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Professor Duflo and Professor Banerjee co-authored Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, which won the Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year and has been translated into more than 17 languages. They have recently published Good Economics for Hard Times.

The Wallace Wurth Lecture was first held in 1964 to commemorate the memory of the late Wallace Charles Wurth, the first President of the Council of the New South Wales University of Technology and the first Chancellor of the University. The first lecture was delivered by the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies and recent speakers include Gail Kelly, Stan Grant, Kate Crawford and Daniel Dennett.

The 2020 Wallace Wurth Lecture is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas. A livestream of the digital event will be available on the UNSW Centre for Ideas website, Twitter and Facebook, and YouTube. A link to the livestream will be sent on the event day to attendees who have registered.

What: Good Economics for Hard Times: Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee

When: Wednesday 11 November, 6.30pm

Register: Centre for Ideas website or Eventbrite.

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