Abhijit Banerjee


Interview, December 2019

Interview with the 2019 Laureate in Economic Sciences Abhijit Banerjee on 6 December 2019 during the Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Read the interview

Abhijit Banerjee answers the following questions (the links below lead to clip on YouTube):
00:06 Can you tell us about your childhood?
01:38 How did you end up in economics?
02:39 What’s your relationship with India today?
03:22 How can we better understand poverty?
05:25 How is your work connected to climate change?
08:07 How important is it to have fun in your life and work?
08:58 Do you like teaching? Was there a teacher that inspired you?
10:01 Can you tell us about your work in films?
11:09 What’s your hope for the future?

Short interview, December 2019

“Do what you love and love what you do”

In this interview from the Nobel Banquet on 10 December 2019, Economic Sciences Laureates Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee talks about their different reactions to receiving news of the prize, the role of women as role models and advice to young economists.

Nobel Minds 2019

The 2019 Nobel Laureates met at the old Stockholm Stock Exchange Building (Börshuset) in Gamla stan, Stockholm, on 9 December 2019 for the traditional round-table discussion and TV program ‘Nobel Minds’. The laureates talked about their research, what drives them and their visions for the future. The discussion was hosted by the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi.

Telephone interview, October 2019

“We all learn together about the way the world is”

Telephone interview with Abhijit Banerjee following the announcement of the 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel on 14 October 2019. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.

By his own admission, Abhijit Banerjee is “Not an early morning person.” Having received the pre-dawn call from Stockholm, he sensibly went back to bed to catch an extra 40 minutes sleep. Abhijit Banerjee thinks that the fight to eradicate poverty is a two-way relationship, and the experimentally-validated solutions that are being developed are “an antidote to wishful thinking of all kinds.”

Interview transcript

Adam Smith: Hello, my name’s Adam Smith, calling from the website of the Nobel Prize, Nobelprize.org in Stockholm. Many congratulations on the award of the prize.

Abhijit Banerjee: Thank you.

AS: As you may have heard from Professor Duflo, I spoke to your wife a little earlier, and she mentioned that after hearing the news from Stockholm you went back to bed!

AB: Yes.

AS: It seems a very sensible and collected thing to do.

AB: Yeah, I mean, it was early, very early in the morning. I’m not an early morning person. I figured it would be a fault of the system if I don’t continue my sleep.

AS: And you managed to sleep after hearing the news?

AB: Yeah. Not long as I kept getting calls after a while. Once the press conference happened and news spread to India and Europe I think, I had no chance But I had a 40 minute interim period when I slept.

AS: I doubt any Laureate has prepared for the day better than that. It’s a prize which recognises work focussed on the world’s poorest people, and that is very special.

AB: I agree. And it, I guess, reflects the, on the fact that somehow that while we often pay lip service to the welfare of all, this is something that not always the immediate focus of a prize like this. I think … I’m delighted that some attention was shown this way. Not that I think all the other things that they give prizes for aren’t important, but it does make people who work in this area I guess feel a little more enthused. It’s lots of people in this world of people who do real things, not people like us, who do real things, and it’s somewhat of a prize for all of them.

AS: And the lesson from all your experimental studies is really, I suppose, that you cannot impose your own rationality on others but you have to listen to what those people will teach you.

AB: That’s right. That’s certainly one lesson. And then maybe you should also … I mean, I think it’s a two-way relationship: I think you should not have too much faith in your own rationality. You should not have too much faith in the rationality of, you know, anybody else either. We all learn together about the way the world is, and I think it’s a sort of antidote to wishful thinking of all kinds.

AS: Nicely put. But the way you describe it, it makes it sound like a wonderful collaborative relationship which is very hopeful.

AB: That’s been my experience. I’ve been … I have learnt an enormous amount from talking to people on the ground. The set of people I really owe an enormous amount to is the people who are kind of … both I think the people with whom we work whose, whose lives we study in many ways. But also the people who work with them, and I think we’ve learnt just a huge amount from organisations like [unclear], for example. In my personal experience these organisations that work on a very large scale with very poor people has certainly been very important for us.

AS: I must let you go, but let me just ask you one thing, let me ask you about this rare thing that you have been awarded this prize as a married couple, I think only the fifth time that has happened in the history of the prize. It makes it special in some way?

AB: Yeah, I guess it does, in that it’s sort of been our entire family enterprise in a sense, this whole between J-PAL the research and working at MIT, you know, makes it a … You know, there’s lots of dimensions of the work, that just become much more pleasant when you do it with your partner.

AS: Nicely put. Well thank you very, very much and congratulations again.

Did you find any typos in this text? We would appreciate your assistance in identifying any errors and to let us know. Thank you for taking the time to report the errors by sending us an e-mail.

To cite this section
MLA style: Abhijit Banerjee – Interview. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Fri. 29 Sep 2023. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/economic-sciences/2019/banerjee/interview/>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Coming up

This year’s Nobel Prize announcements will take place 2–9 October. All announcements will be streamed live here on nobelprize.org.

See the full schedule
Announcement dates

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.