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IU Professor Named First Woman Nobel Economics Winner

An Indiana University professor is the co-winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics and the first woman to win the award.

Because she was a woman, advisers told Elinor Ostrom she shouldn’t leave her job in business to pursue a Ph.D, because it wouldn’t offer her many opportunities.

“[she was told] Why would you try for a PhD?  You can’t possibly get a job doing anything but teaching in a city college somewhere and you’ve got a better job now,” she said.

Since earning her doctorate in 1965, Ostrom has studied how small- and mid-sized organizations are better equipped to manage some situations than their larger counterparts.  Her research, completed in Indianapolis and Chicago, indicates smaller, often volunteer police forces, for instance, are more effective at controlling crime because officers know neighborhood residents better and are, in turn, more respected by the community, thus reducing crime and the costs of fighting it.

Ostrom said her research indicates some smaller organizations can eliminate more than 90 percent of their wasteful spending through self-management.

“I’m not opposed to large,” she said.  “If we’re dealing with a huge lake, like I live on in the summer.  To regulate that lake, the small communities have a hard time.  To regulate bays on that lake, they do a very good job.”

She says she’ll re-invest some of the 700-thousand dollars she’ll receive into Indiana University’s Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, which she co-founded with her husband Vincent.

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