Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009

Elinor Ostrom presented with Nobel Prize in Economics

Dec. 10, 2009

STOCKHOLM -- Elinor Ostrom today was presented the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. She is one of only 64 people and the first woman to receive the award, also called the Nobel Prize in Economics, since it was created in 1968.

Ostrom, who shares the prize with Oliver Williamson, is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science at Indiana University and the co-founder and senior research director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. She also is founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University.

Elinor Ostrom Nobel

Photo by Hans Mehlin

Ostrom (left) receives her award from King Carl XVI Gustaf.

King Carl XVI Gustaf, who described the award as a "measure of excellence" recognized around the world, and Queen Silvia of Sweden presented Ostrom and the other laureates with the Nobel medal, made from 18 carat green gold plated with 24 carat gold and imprinted with the image of Alfred Nobel, and a Nobel diploma that is uniquely designed for each prize.

Laureates in each category also receive $1.4 million. Ostrom's half of the economics award will go to the Indiana University Foundation to support research by Ostrom and her colleagues.

"There is no higher recognition in the field of economic sciences, or any other field of science, than the Nobel Prize," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who attended the prize ceremony with First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie. "This award brings great honor to Professor Ostrom, her colleagues, and indeed to Indiana University."

Also presented today in Stockholm were Nobel Prizes in physics to Willard S. Boyle, George E. Smith and Charles Kao; in chemistry to Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Seitz and Ada E. Yonath; in physiology or medicine to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak; and in literature to Herta Müller.

The Nobel Prize ceremony is followed by a formal banquet for the laureates and 1,300 guests in the Blue Hall of Stockholm City Hall. U.S. President Barack H. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today in a separate ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

Ostrom received the Nobel Prize for her work on economic governance, especially of 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 Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences said. "Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concluded that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories."

Ostrom is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society and a recipient of the Reimar Lüst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange and many other awards. Her books include Governing the Commons (1990); Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005) and Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice (forthcoming 2010, with Amy Poteete and Marco Janssen). She and Vincent Ostrom founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at IU in 1973-74.

Economics co-laureate Oliver Williamson of the University of California, Berkeley, also was recognized for work on economic governance, in particular his study of transaction cost economics.

In receiving the Nobel Prize in economics, Ostrom and Williamson add their names to those of such well-known economists and social scientists as Gunnar Myrdal, Friedrich August von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Herbert A. Simon, Ronald Coase, Douglass North, John Nash, Reinhard Selten and Paul Krugman.

The Nobel Prize ceremony and Ostrom's Nobel Lecture, "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems," which she delivered Tuesday, may be viewed online at