Ben Bernanke Among Trio to Share This Year's Final Nobel

Nobel Prize in economics was awarded Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2022 5:46 AM CDT
Ben Bernanke Among Trio of Economists to Share a Nobel
A Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 file photo of a Nobel medal displayed during a ceremony in New York.   (Angela Weiss/Pool Photo via AP, File)

This year's Nobel Prize in economic sciences has been awarded to the former chair of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and two US-based economists, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig, "for research on banks and financial crises." In announcing the prize Monday, the AP reports the committee said the trio had shown in their research "why avoiding bank collapses is vital." With their research in the early 1980s, the laureates laid the foundations for regulating financial markets and dealing with financial crises, the panel said. "The laureates’ insights have improved our ability to avoid both serious crises and expensive bailouts," said Tore Ellingsen, chair of the Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences.

Bernanke, 68, who is now with the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, examined the Great Depression of the 1930s, showing how dangerous bank runs—when panicked savers withdraw their deposits—can be. Diamond, 68, based at the University of Chicago, and Dybvig, 67, who is at Washington University in St. Louis, showed how government guarantees on deposits can prevent a spiraling of financial crises. Their research took on great real-world significance when investors sent the financial system into a panic during the fall of 2008. Bernanke, then head of the Fed, teamed up with the Treasury Department to prop up major banks.

He slashed short-term interest rates to zero, directed the Fed’s purchases of Treasury and mortgage investments, and set up unprecedented lending programs. Collectively, those steps calmed investors and fortified big banks. They also pushed long-term interest rates to historic lows and led to fierce criticism that the Fed was hurting the value of the dollar and running the risk of igniting inflation later. The Fed’s actions under Bernanke extended the authority of the central bank into unprecedented territory. They weren’t able to prevent the longest and most painful recession since the 1930s. But in hindsight, the Fed’s moves were credited with rescuing the banking system and avoiding another depression.

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Nobel prizes carry a cash award of nearly $900,000 and will be handed out on Dec. 10. Unlike the other prizes, the economics award wasn’t established in Alfred Nobel’s will of 1895 but by the Swedish central bank in his memory. The first winner was selected in 1969. Last year, half of the award went to David Card for his research on how the minimum wage, immigration and education affect the labor market. The other half was shared by Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens for proposing how to study issues that don't easily fit traditional scientific methods. (Read more Nobel Prize in Economics stories.)

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