LSU Professor closely connected with 2019 Nobel Prize winners

October 15, 2019

BATON ROUGE –The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded Monday, October 14, 2019, to Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Esther Duflo (MIT), and Michael Kremer (Harvard) for their “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” The three researchers study problems like education deficiencies and child health scientifically and the research conducted by this year’s Laureates have considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty. In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research. They break issues into smaller questions, search for evidence about which interventions work to resolve them and seek practical ways to bring those treatments to scale.

Dan Keniston, associate professor in the LSU Department of Economics, is a frequent co-author with 2019 Nobel Prize winners Banerjee and Duflo. In a series of collaborations starting when Keniston was studying as their graduate student at M.I.T., they have researched the optimal strategies to improve institutions in developing countries, with the ultimate goal of reducing global poverty. These projects have all featured the experimental approach highlighted by the Nobel committee, applying it to topics ranging from village schools to police reform.

In their latest work on reducing drunken driving (NBER Working Paper 26224), Banerjee, Duflo, Keniston and Singh collaborated with the State Police in Rajasthan, India, to test the most effective means of deploying police resources to reduce road accidents and deaths. By randomly assigning some police stations to conduct sobriety checkpoints in the same location, while other police stations rotate checkpoints to different locations, they can quantify the speed with which potential drunken drivers learn about police presence and use this in an economic model to optimize law enforcement strategies.

“I am thrilled and tremendously proud of my collaborators and advisors professors Banerjee and Duflo,” said Keniston. “The movement that they have launched has already transformed many fields of economics but, more importantly, has the potential to save thousands of lives in developing countries.”

“I look forward to continued collaborations in the future, including our current work on understanding corruption at the ground level,” he continued. “In our latest study, we have interviewed thousands of Indian motorcycle drivers about the bribes paid to traffic policemen and hope to use this information to design more effective anti-corruption strategies.”

Professor Keniston was one of the first employees of Banerjee and Dulfo’s organization called the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL, and continues to be a J-PAL faculty affiliate. J-PAL is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Anchored by a network of 181 affiliated professors at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty. The coalition helps to identify effective interventions — like deworming campaigns — and then works with governments and nongovernment organizations to implement them. 

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The Department of Economics at LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business offers courses that provide it's undergraduate and graduate students an intellectual challenge and strong analytic training and the tools to understand the economic and social problems faced both domestically and internationally. The numerous awards received and peer-reviewed scholarly articles published in high-quality economic journals demonstrate the faculty’s commitment to quality teaching and research.

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Elizabeth Eaton
E. J. Ourso College of Business