The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer of the United States and Esther Duflo, who holds both US and French citizenship, "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty".
Duflo became only the second woman to win a share of the award.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced it had selected them on Monday. Their prizes will be formally presented, along with those of other Nobel laureates, at a lavish banquet in Stockholm, Sweden on Dec 10, which is the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the industrialist and scientist after whom the awards are named. The king of Sweden will present the winners with medals, certificates and 9 million kronor ($918,000) in each discipline. A maximum of three people can share each prize every year.
The academy said it selected Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer because of their research into the "daunting issue" of global poverty. It said they tackled the issue by breaking it down into smaller questions that could be better asked and answered. It said they looked into how best to improve the health of children by examining their education, health systems, agricultural approaches and access to credit.
The committee said: "Despite recent dramatic improvements, one of humanity's most urgent issues is the reduction of global poverty, in all its forms. More than 700 million people still subsist on extremely low incomes."
It said around 5 million children under the age of 5 still die of diseases that could be prevented annually and half of the world's children leave school without basic literacy and numeracy.
Duflo, 46, who is the youngest person to win the prize, said current turbulence in global economics can be traced back to a changing world order.
"I think we live in turbulent times where many individuals in rich countries are deeply concerned about their position in the world," she said. That anxiety is "at the root of much of the turbulence we are seeing".
Kremer conducted field experiments in the 1990s on how various interventions improved academic results for children in Kenya. Banerjee and Duflo conducted similar experiments in India.
Banerjee and Duflo are married and based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kremer is an academic at Harvard University.
The prize, which is officially known as The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is generally thought of as the most prestigious award in the field of economics and has been presented annually since 1969. Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, it was not established in 1901 based on instructions contained in Nobel's will but was set up by Sweden's central bank, Sveriges Riksbank, to mark its 300th anniversary. It is, however, managed by the Nobel Foundation, along with the other Nobel Prizes.
As of 2018, 81 people had won at least a share of a Nobel Prize in economics.
Richard Thaler of the US, who won the award in 2017, issued some inspiring advice for struggling students when he said: "I wasn't a great student. My thesis adviser famously said: 'We didn't expect much of him'".
The Nobel Prize in economics was the last in a series of Nobel Prizes for 2019 to be announced in recent days.