Elinor Ostrom


Elinor Ostrom

© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan

Elinor Ostrom
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009

Born: 7 August 1933, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Died: 12 June 2012, Bloomington, IN, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA; Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

Prize motivation: “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”

Prize share: 1/2


Elinor Clair Awan was born in Los Angeles, California in the United States, and grew up in a family of simple means. She studied political science at the University of California Los Angeles, where she also received her PhD in 1965. She later went on to work at Indiana University in Bloomington. Ostrom has also been affiliated with Arizona State University in Tempe and Virginia Tech. She married fellow political scientist Vincent Ostrom in 1963.


It was long unanimously held among economists that natural resources that were collectively used by their users would be over-exploited and destroyed in the long-term. Elinor Ostrom disproved this idea by conducting field studies on how people in small, local communities manage shared natural resources, such as pastures, fishing waters, and forests. She showed that when natural resources are jointly used by their users, in time, rules are established for how these are to be cared for and used in a way that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.

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