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Oct. 12, 2020, 6:22 a.m. EDT

Two Americans win Nobel prize in economics for auction theory advances

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By Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Americans Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson have won the Nobel Prize in economics for “improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats.”

The committee said Wilson’s work showed “why rational bidders tend to place bids below their own best estimate of the common value,” that is, “the value which is uncertain beforehand but, in the end, is the same for everyone.”

“(Bidders) are worried about the winner’s curse — that is, about paying too much and losing out,” the committee said.

Milgrom developed a more general theory of auctions that takes into account was is known as the “private value” of what’s being sold that can vary greatly from bidder to bidder.

Speaking to reporters in Stockholm by phone after learning of his win, Wilson struggled to think of an auction he himself had participated in. But then added: “My wife points out to me that we bought ski boots on eBay. I guess that was an auction.”

The award caps a week of Nobel Prizes at a time when much of the world is experiencing the worst recession since World War II because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Technically known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, the award was established in 1969 and is now widely considered one of the Nobel prizes.

Last year’s award went to two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a third from Harvard University, for their groundbreaking research into efforts to reduce global poverty.

Few economists could have predicted last fall that the globe would come to a virtual standstill within months, as governments closed their borders, imposed lockdowns and ordered other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, triggering a sharp dip in business activity worldwide.

The prestigious award comes with a 10-million krona ($1.1 million) cash prize and a gold medal.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus. Tuesday’s prize for physics honored breakthroughs in understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes, and the chemistry prize on Wednesday went to scientists behind a powerful gene-editing tool.

The literature prize was awarded to American poet Louise Glück on Thursday for her “candid and uncompromising” work. The World Food Program won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its effort to combat hunger worldwide.

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