The GiveWell Blog

How this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics influenced GiveWell’s work

On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the development economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer are this year’s recipients of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer’s work to understand the global poor has influenced our research in myriad ways over the years. Some GiveWell staff cite Banerjee and Duflo’s 2011 book, Poor Economics, as a catalyst for their interest in working in global health and poverty alleviation. All three development economists have contributed to our understanding and prioritization of programs, including microfinance, education, and treating intestinal parasites.

The research of Michael Kremer and his co-author Ted Miguel has been especially critical in shaping our annual recommendations of outstanding charities and thus has guided the donations of many donors who rely on our work. Miguel and Kremer’s 2004 study on the impacts of treating intestinal parasites (deworming) and follow-ups to that work are the reason that we have included deworming programs on our very short list of top charities each year since 2011.

Miguel and Kremer’s study looked at the impact of providing deworming medicine to children in Western Kenya. They assessed the short-term impact of deworming on education (school attendance and test scores) and health (sickness, height, and weight). Critically, a series of studies co-authored by Sarah Baird and Joan Hamory Hicks followed up with the children who participated in the Miguel and Kremer study. They found that when children who had received deworming treatments entered the workforce as adults, their earnings were higher than those of children who had not—a result that might seem surprising for a cheap, simple health intervention!

The evidence for deworming is complex and controversial, but we have long believed that gifts to deworming programs represent an excellent opportunity to do good—thanks to Miguel and Kremer’s study and the experiments that followed. As a result of our recommendation, donors in our community have provided an estimated $130 million to support four deworming organizations since we added them to our top charities list, which we estimate adds up to an impressive 319 million or more deworming treatments provided to children.

We’re excited for the important recognition that Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer received this week. We also want to thank the donors in our community whose gifts have been shaped by this work over the years. Thank you, and congratulations to the newest laureates!

Interested in learning more about our views on deworming?

We’ve published a number of blog posts over the years explaining our recommendation of deworming: