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Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009

Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University faculty member, wins Nobel Prize for Economics

Note: To watch a news conference with Nobel Prize recipient Elinor Ostrom and Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie via streaming video, see

Oct. 12, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University professor Elinor Ostrom has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced today (Oct. 12).

Ostrom is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. She is co-founder and senior research director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at IU.

Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom

She is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics, which was established in 1968. She shares the award with Oliver Williamson, Edgar F. Kaiser Professor Emeritus of Business, Economics and Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her award recognizes her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.

"Elinor Ostrom has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized," the Academy said in announcing the prize. "Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes."

Ostrom said she was "flabbergasted" to get the news this morning that she received the Nobel Prize. "It was a fantastic surprise and a thrilling one," she said. "I'm very appreciative."

"This is fantastic news," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "Professor Ostrom has won widespread recognition from around the world for her very original research and scholarship. For her to win the Nobel Prize is fully appropriate."

Ostrom said she knows Oliver Williamson, her co-recipient, and is pleased to share the award with him.

In addition to her positions at Indiana University, Ostrom is Research Professor and founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University.

An IU faculty member since 1965, she co-founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis with her husband, Vincent Ostrom, in 1973. She served as president of the Public Choice Society from 1982-84 and president of the American Political Science Association in 1996-97. She was the first woman to chair the Department of Political Science in 1980-84.

Ostrom received her B.A. at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1954; her M.A. at UCLA in 1962; and her Ph.D. at UCLA in 1965.

She and Williamson will split the $1.4-million award that goes with the Nobel Prize for Economics, and each will receive a gold medal and diploma from the Swedish king on Dec. 10, which is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.