UCL News


UCL academic wins prestigious economics award

8 April 2019

Professor Imran Rasul (UCL Economics) has received the Yrjö Jahnsson Award in Economics, in recognition of his pioneering work on personnel economics and development.

Imran Rasul

Professor Rasul, co-director of the Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, was jointly awarded the prize with Professor Oriana Bandiera (LSE, Department of Economics). Both are applied microeconomists.

The Award Selection Committee commended their work on the role of social relationships in economics, which they have “advanced through pioneering field experiments in the workplace and social networks.”

On hearing the news, Professor Rasul said: “It is a great honour to receive this award – it is the second time running faculty at UCL Economics have been awarded, and this reflects the fantastic set of colleagues and students that we have here.”

The Yrjö Jahnsson Award in Economics, established in 1993, recognises and awards a European economist  no older than 45 years old who has made a significant contribution to economics in Europe through theoretical and applied research. The European Economic Association (EEA) cooperates with the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation in the selection of the award winners. 

The Committee acknowledged Professors Rasul and Bandiera’s seminal work, jointly with Associate Professor Iwan Barankay (University of Pennsylvania), on social preferences and the response to incentives.

In a series of field experiments aimed at estimating the causal effect of social relationships on incentives, they introduced a clever exogenous variation (independent variation) in the incentive structure offered to workers picking “soft fruit” in the UK.

They used this setting to explore a number of issues - such as social preferences, social incentives, the role of connections and the effect of inequality - that until then had been studied only theoretically or in laboratory setting.

Rasul and Bandiera have also provided other novel empirical evidence on the role of social networks for technology adoption in a farming context, on the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs, and on the functioning of labor markets in low-income settings.

The Committee added: “An important contribution of their work is that their experiments have become a role model for randomized control trials for incentive treatments and they have deeply influenced the applied microeconomics field. Their transformative work has inspired a generation of applied economists.”

The Award, which is now in its fourteenth year, will be presented to Professors Rasul and Bandiera during the annual EEA Congress, which will be held in Manchester during August 2019.

It is the second time running that a UCL academic has been awarded the prestigious prize. Previous winners include Professor Ran Spiegler (UCL Economics), for his important contributions to economic theory and bounded rationality, and Sir Richard Blundell (UCL Economics), for his pioneering contributions to consumption behaviour and micro econometrics.