Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom
Nobel Prize 2009-Press Conference KVA-30.jpg

Ostrom in 2009
Born Elinor Claire Awan
August 7, 1933
Los Angeles, California,
United States
Died June 12, 2012 (aged 78)
United States
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Spouse(s) Charles Scott

Vincent Ostrom (1965–2012; her death)
School or
New institutional economics
Alma mater UCLA
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Elinor Claire “Lin” Ostrom (August 7, 1933 – June 12, 2012) was an American political economist[1][2][3] whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy.[4] In 2009, she shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Oliver E. Williamson for her “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons“. To date, she remains the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.[5]

After graduating with a B.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA, Ostrom lived in BloomingtonIndiana, and served on the faculty of Indiana University, with a late-career affiliation with Arizona State University. She was Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as research professor and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe.[6] She was a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID.[7] Beginning in 2008, she and her husband Vincent Ostrom advised the journal Transnational Corporations Review.[8]

Personal life and education[edit]

Elinor Claire Awan was born in Los AngelesCalifornia as the only child of Leah Hopkins, a musician, and Adrian Awan, a set designer.[9][10] Her parents separated early in her life, and Elinor lived with her mother most of the time.[11] She attended a Protestant church with her mother and often spent weekends with her father’s Jewish family.[9][12] Growing up in the post-Depression era to divorced artisans, Ostrom described herself as a “poor kid.”[11][13] Her major recreational activity was swimming, where she eventually joined a swimming team and swam competitively until she started teaching swimming to earn funds to help put herself through college.[14]

Ostrom grew up across the street from Beverly Hills High School, which she attended, graduating in 1951.[15] She regarded this as fortunate, for the school had a very high rate of college admittance. During Ostrom’s junior year, she was encouraged to join the debate team. Learning debate tactics had an important impact on her ways of thinking. It allowed her to realize there are two sides to public policy and it is imperative to have quality arguments for both sides.[14] As a high school student, Elinor Ostrom had been discouraged from studying Trigonometry, as girls without top marks in Algebra and Geometry were not allowed to take the subject. No one in her immediate family had any college experience, but seeing that 90% of students in her high school attended college, she saw it as the “normal” thing to do.[14] Her mother did not wish for her to attend college, seeing no reason for it.[15]

She attended UCLA, receiving a B.A. (with honors) in political science at UCLA in 1954.[16] By attending multiple summer session and extra classes throughout semesters, she was able to graduate in three years She worked at the library, dime store, and bookstore in order to pay for her fees, which were $50 per semester.

[14] She married a classmate, Charles Scott, and worked at General Radio in Cambridge, Massachusetts while Scott attended Harvard Law School.[9] They divorced several years later when Ostrom began contemplating a PhD.[9][17] After graduation, she had trouble finding a job because employers presumed that she was only looking for jobs as a teacher or secretary. She began a job as an Export Clerk after taking a correspondence course for shorthand, which she later found to be helpful when taking notes in face-to-face interviews on research projects. After a year, she obtained a position as Assistant Personnel Manager in a business firm that had never before hired a woman in anything but a secretarial position. This job inspired her to think about attending graduate-level courses and eventually applying for a research assistantship and admission to a Ph.D. program.[14]

Lacking trigonometry from high school, she was consequently rejected for an economics PhD at UCLA.[18] She was admitted to UCLA’s graduate program in political science, where she was awarded an M.A. in 1962 and a PhD in 1965.[16] She married political scientist Vincent Ostrom in 1963, whom she met while assisting his research on water resource governance in Southern California.[10] The teams of graduate students she was involved with were analyzing the political economic effects of a group of groundwater basins in Southern California. Specifically, Ostrom was assig