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You’ve won the Nobel Prize in economics. Now what?

Janet Nguyen Oct 12, 2015

You’ve won the Nobel Prize in economics. Now what?

Janet Nguyen Oct 12, 2015

Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton, won the Nobel Prize in economics Monday for his work on consumption, poverty and wealth, helping to show how different social groups are affected by tax changes

“There’s a real moral urgency to understanding how people behave and what we should or might be able to do about it,” Deaton said in an interview with the New York Times.  

With a Nobel Prize in economics come multiple opportunities: speaking engagements, job offers and a greater platform to show the world the economic research you’ve toiled over. In anticipation of the announcement, we caught up with previous winners to find out what they’ve been doing in the years since. 

Eugene Fama, a 2013 Nobel Prize winner in economics

Eugene Fama

Eugene Fama

University of Chicago professor Eugene Fama co-won the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics for showing that asset prices are incredibly difficult to predict in the short run.  (Lars Peter Hansen, another professor from the University of Chicago, and Yale University’s Robert Shiller also won for their work on asset prices, each for his own research.)

Fama said he donated his slice of the $1.23 million prize money to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business for faculty research because the school has been instrumental in his own research success.

For Fama, not much has changed professionally since his win. He said that he still devotes 20 percent of his time to teaching and 80 percent to research.

One thing that has changed, he said, is that others hold him in greater esteem.

“Everybody treats you with much more respect, and speaking possibilities are unlimited,” Fama said.

 Most of which he passes on, he added.

“I liked my life before winning the prize, and vowed that if I ever won, I wouldn’t let it change my life.” Fama said.  “I haven’t — I think.”

Robert Shiller, a 2013 Nobel Prize winner in economics

Robert Shiller

Robert Shiller

Robert Shiller, who co-won the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics along with Fama and Hansen, sees winning the prize as a mandate to help society.

“I feel an obligation to live up to the implied responsibilities, to use my work for many others,” Shiller said.  

His work argued that there is greater predictability “in the long run in stock and bond markets.”  

Shiller, who teaches at Yale full time, said he wants to use his Nobel platform to promote solutions for income inequality, namely through improved insurance contracts and better government finance, such as “GDP-linked government bonds.”

Recently, Shiller completed a book with George Akerlof, one of the 2001 Nobel Prize winners in economics, called “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception,” a work that talks about how markets can be both damaging and helpful.

Eric Maskin, a 2007 Nobel Prize winner in economics

Eric Maskin

Eric Maskin

For Eric Maskin, the real value of the Nobel Prize in economics is its ability to show the world the very significant work researchers contribute to the field.

“The Nobel Prize is not very important for the winners — they are usually pretty successful people already,” he said. “But it is valuable as a way of drawing the public’s attention to important work in economics.”

Eric Maskin co-won the prize, along with economists Leonid Hurwicz and Roger B. Myerson, for his research on mechanism design theory — a method of using some type of “mechanism” (such as a procedure or institution, Maskin said) to achieve a solution for a social or economic goal.

“Devising a mechanism is a lot like solving a puzzle — and gives you the same kind of kick,” Maskin said.

Maskin said he is currently studying the election systems in the U.S., Britain and France, and the possible link between globalization and rising inequality in developing countries.   

 Maskin, who has a disabled son, said he donated a large amount of his prize money share ($1.56 million was distributed among the winners) to the school his son graduated from in 2008 — the Camphill Special School in Pennsylvania for children with developmental disabilities.

The Harvard professor said winning the prize hasn’t really altered his day-to-day routine.

“For the most part, my life hasn’t changed too much. I still teach and do research, just as before,” he said. “But now I get approached by media people like you and have a chance to speak to a wider audience than I could previously.” 

Edmund Phelps, the 2006 Nobel Prize winner in economics

Edmund Phelps

Edmund Phelps

About four years after winning his Nobel Prize, Edmund Phelps became the only American dean at a business school in China.  

The New Huadu Business School at Minjiang University invited Phelps to be its dean in 2010. Phelps, who currently visits the school about five times a year, has lobbied for the school in the central government in Beijing, given speeches to the school’s students, and lectured to publicize the institution.

Back in the U.S., the Nobel Prize winner teaches at Columbia University in New York and is the director of the school’s Center on Capitalism and Society, a program geared toward studying capitalist institutions.    

Phelps won his prize for showing that low inflation and low unemployment weren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, a relationship that initially proved to be an intellectual test for the scholar.  

 “The reason I got immersed in [the subject] is that it was hard enough that I couldn’t really fully understand it very well,” Phelps said. “And so it was quite a challenge to try to make sense of some of it — to try to dig down deeper into the causal forces going on.”

Amid the busy posts he occupies, Phelps said he will continue researching the themes in his 2013 book “Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change,” which argues that people at the grassroots level have helped countries prosper.     

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