Nobel Prize

US scholars Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley win Nobel economics award

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:19pm

US scholars Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley have won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their work on the functioning of markets and how to best match supply and demand.

The work helps match organ donors with patients, students with universities, or internet search engines with advertisers.

Roth, 60, is a professor at Harvard University. Shapley, 89, is a professor emeritus at University of California Los Angeles.

"This year's prize concerns a central economic problem: how to match different agents as well as possible," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

Shapley made early theoretical inroads into the subject, using game theory to analyse different matching methods in the 1950s and '60s. Together with US economist David Gale, he developed a mathematical formula for how 10 men and 10 women could be coupled in a way that none would benefit from trading partners.

While that may have led to little impact on marriages and divorces, their algorithm has been used to understand better a variety of different markets.

In the 1990s, Roth applied it to the market for allocating American student doctors to hospitals. He developed a new algorithm that was adopted by the National Resident Matching Programme, which helps pair resident doctors with the right hospitals.

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was the last of this year's Nobel awards to be announced. It is not technically a Nobel Prize because, unlike the other five, it was not established in the will of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.

The economics prize was created by the Swedish central bank in Nobel's memory in 1968, and has been handed out with the other prizes ever since. Each award is worth eight million Swedish krona (HK$9.5 million).

Last year's economics prize went to American economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims for describing the cause-and-effect relationship that exists between the economy and government policy.

This year's Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature, and the Nobel Peace Prize were announced last week. All awards will be handed out on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse