Celebrating Elinor Ostrom on International Women’s Day

To date, only one woman has ever received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences (colloquially known as the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences), and her influence on economics is keenly felt by Mercatus Center scholars and their George Mason University colleagues. Elinor "Lin" Ostrom’s work in the field of institutional analysis not only earned her the highest award in economics, but helped reshape the profession. Her years of fieldwork would go on to influence future economists.

In his own Nobel lecture, Mercatus Center Board Member and George Mason University Professor Emeritus Vernon Smith noted the importance of Dr. Ostrom’s “ecological experiments” in influencing the field of experimental economics for which Smith received the prize.

Director of the Mercatus Center’s F.A. Hayek Program and George Mason University Professor of Economics and Philosophy Peter J. Boettke, writing in 2012 following the passing of Dr. Ostrom, had this to say about her pioneering role in economics:

“Long before being awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, Lin shattered barriers as a pioneer in the field of institutional analysis and her intellectual imprint is evident throughout academia and public policy. She is best known for her work on governing the commons but she also did groundbreaking work on local public economies, and the institutional analysis of development. Her multiple methods methodology is an inspiring vision of the social and policy sciences.”

“The researchers at Mercatus had the benefit of a long relationship with Lin. Lin was a gracious and frequent visitor to our programs where she would visit with our graduate students and talk to them about their own research, particularly those working in the areas of the economics of self-governance, and comparative institutional analysis. Mercatus helped sponsor a Lifetime Achievement Award for Lin and Vincent back in 2003 and edited a special issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization based on the papers given at that conference. Just prior to the announcement of Lin’s Nobel prize in economics, Paul Dragos Aligica and I published our book on the Ostroms, Challenging the Institutional Analysis of Development: The Bloomington School.”

Learn more: Listen to Boettke, Vlad Tarko, Bobbi Herzberg, and Michael McGinnis discuss Dr. Ostrom’s work and legacy more in-depth on the “Elinor Ostrom: An Intellectual Biography” book panel.