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American Wins Nobel Prize in Economics

2017-10-11

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[00:00.00]
  • American economist Richard Thaler has won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Economics.
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  • Thaler was recognized for his work as a behavioral economist.
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  • That means he studies the reasons behind the economic decisions people make.
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  • Thaler received the prize partly for his research into why people often make irrational financial decisions.
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  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the $1.1 million prize on Monday.
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  • Speaking of the prize money, Thaler told reporters in Chicago after the announcement, “I will spend it as irrationally as possible.”
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  • The award committee said Thaler explored “the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control.”
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  • It said the American economist’s work has shown how human qualities affect people’s individual decisions and the movements of financial markets.
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  • Thaler developed the theory of “mental accounting.”
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  • It describes how people create separate accounts in their minds to try to simplify financial decision-making.
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  • He described how this can lead to less rational financial decisions like saving for a vacation while paying high credit card interest.
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  • His research, Bloomberg noted, showed that people often choose short-term pleasures, “which is why many people fail to plan and save for old age.”
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  • The Reuters said Thaler’s research showed that such traits “as lack of self-control and fear of losing what you already have” can cause people to make bad short-term decisions.
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  • One of those, Thaler noted, was keeping stock shares that have lost value or selling them too soon when they have gained value.
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  • Thaler helped develop the “nudge” theory.
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  • It is the idea that small incentives can influence people to make good decisions.
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  • He said people should be permitted to make their own choices,
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  • but society “should actively try to guide individuals in the right direction.”
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  • Cass Sunstein and Thaler wrote about the idea in the 2008 book “Nudge.”
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  • The theory has been used by political candidates as they work to influence voters and government officials seeking to make changes in society.
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  • Other areas also interested Thaler.
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  • He studied fairness.
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  • He found that people can accept increasing prices if the costs of many things are going up.
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  • But he found that they strongly disapprove of companies that raise prices simply because of high demand for one product.
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  • Bloomberg called Thaler’s Nobel Prize “a reward for 40 years of work spent studying human bias and temptation.”
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  • Thaler is considered one of the first behavioral economists.
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  • His field, once criticized, has grown in popularity among economists over the last 10 years.
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  • The economist even briefly appeared in the 2010 movie, “The Big Short,” about the global financial crisis.
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  • Thaler is a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
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  • The economics prize was created in 1968 in memory of Alfred Nobel after his death.
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  • Since then, 79 individuals have received the prize.
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  • The first woman winner was Elinor Ostrom in 2009.
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  • American have received about half of the Nobel Prizes for economics.
  • [05:31.16]
  • I’m Mario Ritter.
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