For the third time in history, a Dutch-born was awarded the Nobel Prize today. The Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to three scientists, including Dutch-American economist Guido Empains. He shares the award with Joshua Ingreste and David Card.
Imbens received the wonderful news through a phone call last night. After that it quickly got messy, he told BNR. “Immediately after that, all kinds of things started to happen. Stanford, where I work here, I heard it. I got all kinds of emails and phone calls and since then I’ve had a lot of media conversations. People come and go here.”
Imbens was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research in the 1990s. However, he wasn’t really expecting to get it so early. “I wasn’t expecting that to happen at all. And certainly not too early, because people usually don’t get these awards until long into their careers. So that was a nice surprise.”
In research for which Imbens was awarded the Nobel Prize, he showed how conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn in natural experiments. Empains: In the social sciences, we’re very interested in causal relationships. Not only do we want to measure correlations, but we often can’t do experiments.
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For example, Imbens mentions a paper in which the effect of basic income on the supply of labor has been measured. You can’t do an experiment for that, because that would be too expensive and it wouldn’t be fair. We used data from a survey of people who won the lottery, but earned money per month over 25 years. This is more like basic income. After a few years, we saw some impact on how much they worked and earned, but it was actually quite small. So you get an idea of what the consequences of a basic income will be, without having to run an experiment right away.
Sylvester Egginger, professor of financial economics at Tilburg University and a former colleague of the Imbens, has great admiration for the new Nobel Prize winner. He’s the one who tackled that difficult systematic problem of causality in econometrics. This has always been a very difficult problem for all experimental sciences and social sciences. Because we cannot conduct experiments, even from an ethical point of view.
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According to Eijffinger, the news regarding Imbens’ earnings was greeted with great pride in the Netherlands today. Guido Impens is the third Dutch-born to win a Nobel Prize. Of course we should be incredibly proud of that. We think that’s very justified, but it’s also very good for the field. Since economics is often thought of as a social science that cannot be compared to physics and chemistry, but through their systematic studies, Imbens and Angrist have shown that you can indeed find those causal links. This is a huge step forward in the economy.
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