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Leontief Home | Other Recipients

2010 Leontief Prize
Awarded to Bina Agarwal and Daniel Kahneman

Dr. William Moomaw, Dr. Bina Agarwal, Dr. Daniel Kahneman,
President Lawrence Bacow, Dr. Neva Goodwin

Photo by Mukhtar Amin

Development and Well-Being in Times of Crisis

On March 29 the Global Development And Environment Institute (GDAE) awarded the 2010 Leontief Prize to Bina Agarwal, professor of economics at the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi University, and Daniel Kahneman, senior scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences.

The Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought recognizes economists whose work, like that of the institute and Leontief himself, combines theoretical and empirical research that promotes a more comprehensive understanding of social and environmental processes.  Presenting the award, GDAE’s co-director Neva Goodwin remarked that “coming from two different directions – from inside and outside the field of economics – [this year’s award recipients] have each contributed significantly to widening and refreshing the field.”

Speaking about Bina Agarwal’s contribution to the field, Dr. Goodwin noted that “Bina Agarwal embodies the kind of theoretically rigorous, empirically grounded, and policy-oriented economics that the Leontief Prize was created to recognize.” She continued to say that “her contributions to both scholarship and policy on economic development, the environment, well-being, and gender have been an inspiration to GDAE for many years.”

Commenting on Daniel Kahneman’s work, Dr. Goodwin emphasized the importance of his integration into economics of insights from psychology, including work on judgment and decision-making under uncertainty.  She pointed out that the relevance of Kahneman’s work “had already been evident to many – including, I am happy to say, our Institute, which had included a summary of his paper, “New Challenges to the Rationality Assumption” in our selective digest, published in 1997: Human Well-Being and Economic Goals.

See full text of Neva Goodwin's remarks

Lectures on Development and Well-Being in Times of Crisis

Dr. Bina Agarwal

Agarwal presented a lecture on the potential for the world to feed itself in a sustainable manner.  She presented data on the continued importance of agriculture in developing countries, noting that about 60% of the labor force in Africa and Asia is involved in agricultural production.  The typical farmer in developing countries is poor, small-scale, and increasingly female.  Agarwal mentioned that the negative consequences of climate change on agricultural production will be particularly severe in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in declines in per capita caloric intake over the coming decades.

Agarwal’s proposed solutions to this crisis focus on the need for cooperation.  Within developing countries she advocates infrastructure investment, soil and water conservation, and a group approach to farming and investment that targets small-scale female farmers (Read a February 2010 article by Bina Agarwal, "Rethinking Agricultural Production Collectivities").  At the international level she supports regional buffer stocks, food aid, funding for infrastructure and agricultural research, and the elimination of distortionary subsidies for biofuels. 

Prior to her Leontief lecture, GDAE's Tim Wise sat down with Bina Awarwal to get her perspective on the importance of smallholders, women farmers, and the impacts of climate change. Watch a video of the interview.


In her book Gender and Green Governance (Oxford University Press, Oxford , 2010), Agarwal examines the Political Economy of Women's Presence Within and Beyond Community Forestry.  Nothing that research on gender and green governance has focused mainly on women's near absence from forestry institutions, this interdisciplinary book asks: what if women were present in these institutions? What difference would that make?
Order Gender and Green Governance at a discount.

Newsweek International's December 20, 2010 issue carries an excerpt of an interview with Bina Agarwal where she argues that poor women are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. Read a copy of the article: Women are Key to Conservation

Dr. Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman presented new research from Gallup polls on the relationship between subjective well-being and GDP levels across countries.  Most previous research has found that a positive relationship between subjective well-being and GDP per capita is evident only up to a certain income level; and beyond that level further increases in GDP produce no gains in average well-being levels.  But the new data show a strong and continuous positive relationship between average well-being and the logarithm of income.

But Kanheman noted that this relationship pertains only to the “evaluating” self, as opposed to the “experiencing” self.  While the evaluating self judges one’s welfare relative to others, the experiencing self considers one’s emotional state during the current moment.  The Gallup polls also collect data on emotional well-being and analysis has found that emotional well-being is positively correlated to income, but only up to a certain level of income - $70,000 household income in the United States.  Kahneman concluded that the most effective way to think about the topic is that we shouldn’t focus on increasing well-being, but on decreasing misery, which will lead to a different set of policy prescriptions.

GDAE's Brian Roach interviewed Daniel Kahneman on understanding and measuring human well-being, implications for public policy, and a range of other topics. Watch a video of the interview


Read more about award winners Dr. Bina Agarwal and Dr. Daniel Kahneman.

The 2010 Leontief Awards ceremony was featured in the Tufts Daily as well as the Tufts Journal.


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