Amartya Kumar Sen, born on 3rd November 1933, is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members. Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.Sen was educated at Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. (1955), an M.A. (1959), and a Ph.D. (1959). He taught economics at a number of universities in India and England, including the Universities of Jadavpur (1956–58) and Delhi (1963–71), the London School of Economics, the University of London (1971–77), and the University of Oxford (1977–88), before moving to Harvard University (1988–98), where he was professor of economics and philosophy. In 1998 he was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge—a position he held until 2004, when he returned to Harvard as Lamont University Professor.
Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the “conscience of his profession.” His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970)—which addressed problems such as individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions—inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. For instance, his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in some poor countries in spite of the fact that more women than men are born and infant mortality is higher among males. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded boys in those countries.
Sen’s interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He believed that there was an adequate food supply in India at the time but that its distribution was hindered because particular groups of people in this case rural laborers lost their jobs and therefore their ability to purchase the
food. In his book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. Instead, a number of social and economic factors such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems led to starvation among certain groups in society.
Sen’s first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, an Indian writer and scholar, with whom he had two children: Antara, a journalist and publisher, and Nandana, a Bollywood actress. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971. In 1973, he married his second wife, Eva Colorni, who died from stomach cancer quite suddenly in 1985. They had two children, Indrani, a journalist in New York, and Kabir, who teaches music at Shady Hill School.
His present wife, Emma Georgina Rothschild, is an economic historian, an expert on Adam Smith and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Sen usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal, India, where he likes to go on long bike rides, and maintains a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he and Emma spend the spring and long vacations. Asked how he relaxes, he replies: “I read a lot and like arguing with people.”
HONORS & AWARDS
- He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in welfare economics in 1998.
- In 1999 he received the Bharat Ratna ‘the highest civilian award in India’ by the President of India. In 1999 he was offered honorary citizenship of Bangladesh from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in recognition of his achievements in winning the Nobel Prize, and given that his family origins were in what has become the modern state of Bangladesh.
- He received the 2000 Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory from the Global Development and Environment Institute.
- He was the 351st Commencement Speaker of Harvard University.
- In 2002 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
- Eisenhower Medal, for Leadership and Service USA, 2000.
- Companion of Honour, UK, 2000. In 2002, he received an honorary degree from the university of Tokyo.
- In 2003, he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
- Life Time Achievement award by Bangkok-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
- In 2009, Sen became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation’s International Advisory Board to contribute to the organisation’s work in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
- He was chosen to deliver the Demos Annual Lecture 2010
- Choice of Techniques, 1960. Sen, Amartya, An Aspect of Indian Agriculture, Economic Weekly, Vol. 14, 1962.
- Collective Choice and Social Welfare, 1970, Holden-Day, 1984, Elsevier. Sen, Amartya, On Economic Inequality, New York, Norton, 1973. (Expanded edition with a substantial annexe by James E. Foster and A. Sen, 1997).
- On Economic Inequality, 1973.
- Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981a.
- Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1982.
- Sen, Amartya, Food Economics and Entitlements, Helsinki, Wider Working Paper 1, 1986.
- Sen, Amartya, On Ethics and Economics, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987.
- Drèze, Jean and Sen, Amartya, Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Hunger and Public Action, jointly edited with Jean Drèze, 1989.
- Sen, Amartya, “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing”. New York Review of Books, 1990.
- Sen, Amartya, Inequality Reexamined, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.
- Nussbaum, Martha, and Sen, Amartya. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity, with Jean Drèze, 1995.
- Sen, Amartya, Reason Before Identity (The Romanes Lecture for 1998), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Commodities and Capabilities, 1999.
- Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Development as Freedom, 1999. Reason Before Identity, 1999.
- Freedom, Rationality, and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures and Other essays, 2000.
- Sen, Amartya, Rationality and Freedom, Harvard, Harvard Belknap Press, 2002.
- Rationality and Freedom, 2004.
- Inequality Reexamined, 2004.
- The Argumentative Indian, 2005.
- Sen, Amartya, The Argumentative Indian, London: Allen Lane, 2005.
- Sen, Amartya, The Three R’s of Reform, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40(19): pp. 1971-1974, 2005.
- Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time), New York, W. W. Norton, 2006.
- Imperial Illusions: India, Britain, and the wrong lessons. By Amartya Sen.
- Response by Niall Ferguson. Equality of Capacity by Amartya Sen.
- The Idea of Justice Harvard University Press & London: Allen Lane,2009.
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