‘Natural experiments’ trio take Nobel prize

Three US-based academics yesterday won the Nobel economics prize for research on the labor market using “natural experiments,” or observational studies, that have revolutionized empirical research in the field, the jury said.

Canadian-American David Card, Israeli-American Joshua Angrist and Dutch-American Guido Imbens shared the prize for providing “new insights about the labor market” and showing “what conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from natural experiments,” the Nobel committee said.

The Economics Prize wrapped up a male-dominated 2021 Nobel season which saw a total of 12 men win prizes and only one woman.

The Nobel Peace Prize went to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia last week for fighting for freedom of expression.

Card won half of the prize for work focused on the labor market effects of minimum wages, immigration and education.

In natural experiments, researchers study the result of chance events or policy changes on groups of people, unlike other experiments where scientists have control over their subjects. Card’s studies from the early 1990s showed for example that raising the minimum wage does not necessarily lead to fewer jobs.

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