Former UC Berkeley professor Paul Romer won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday for his integration of technological innovations into macroeconomic analysis.
Romer, a professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, shares the award with Yale University economics professor William Nordhaus. Romer was a campus professor from 1990 to 1996 and also worked as the chief economist of the World Bank from October 2016 to January 2018.
“You commit to something that is larger than yourself,” Romer said at a press conference held at NYU on Monday. “Part of what makes science special is it creates this opportunity we have to commit to something that will last beyond our lifetimes, and ideally we’ll make the world a little bit of a better place.”
Romer said at the press conference that he thought Nobel Prizes would be announced next Monday, so when he received two calls early in the morning, he didn’t answer them because he often receives spam calls — he then realized that the calls were from Sweden and he had won the Nobel Prize.
Work that Romer published in 1990 explained that economic forces determine how willing industries are to produce innovation. This laid the foundation for the endogenous growth theory, which explains how ideas require specific conditions to thrive in a market. Romer’s theory prompted new research into policies that encourage ideas and progress, according to a Nobel press release.
“Paul Romer and Bill Nordhaus are brilliant economists who have both dramatically deepened our understanding of sustainable growth patterns and their technological and policy underpinnings,” said NYU economics professor Michael Spence, who won the same prize in 2001. “It is a terrific selection again by the Nobel organization.
Romer stressed the importance of facts and science in pushing progress forward, saying in the press conference that science is the most important thing that humans have ever invented. Romer added that if people are given a chance to connect with a “world of opportunity” and a chance to learn, then a big difference can be made in the quality of life for billions of people.
In selecting Romer and Nordhaus for the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized economic research that presents an “optimistic view” of economic theory, according to NYU President Andrew Hamilton.
“Paul’s work, in particular, centers on economics as it applies to real life, and it teaches us that technology is something that we can and should harness for the collective good,” Hamilton said at the press conference.