WASHINGTON — Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics, honored along with fellow American Oliver Williamson on Monday.
Ostrom, 76, and Williamson, 77, shared the $1.4 million prize.
Ostrom, a political scientist at Indiana University, showed how common resources — forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands — can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies.
"What we have ignored is what citizens can do and the importance of real involvement of the people involved — versus just having somebody in Washington . . . make a rule," Ostrom said during a brief session with reporters in Bloomington.
Williamson, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on how firms and markets differ in the ways that they resolve conflicts. He found that companies are typically better able to resolve conflicts than markets when competition is limited, the Nobel citation said.
Ostrom, also the founding director of Arizona State University's Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, devoted her career to studying the interaction of people and natural resources. One notable publication she wrote in 1990 examined successful and unsuccessful ways of governing natural resources — forests, fisheries, oilfields, grazing lands and irrigation systems — that are used by individuals.
Ostrom's work challenged conventional wisdom, showing that common resources can be successfully managed without privatization or government regulation.
Williamson previously was a consultant to the U.S. Federal Trade commission from 1978 to 1980 and a special economic assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the U.S. Department of Justice in 1966-67.
He was cited for his studies on how organizations — including companies — are structured and how that affects the cost of doing business. According to his theory, large private corporations exist primarily because they are efficient.
Eleven Americans — some of them with dual nationality — were among this year's 13 Nobel winners, including President Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.