2009 Nobel Prize

Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009 “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.” She was the first woman
to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. 

As a political scientist Elinor Ostrom's research methods differed from how most economists work. Usually they start with a hypothesis, an assumption of reality, which is then put to the test. Elinor Ostrom started with an actual reality instead. She gathered information through field studies and then analyzed this material. In her book ‘Governing the Commons’ from 1990, she demonstrated how common property can be successfully managed by user associations and that economic analysis can shed light on most forms of social organization. Her research had great impact amongst political scientists and economists.”

—Nobel Prize website

Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize is housed and on display in the lobby of Bryan Hall on the IU Bloomington campus.

Nobel Perspectives

Documentary video on UBS Nobel Perspectives website featuring Elinor Ostrom, “Are Ordinary People Able to Self­-Organize?”, March 8, 2016.

Nobel Prize Lecture

Prize lecture delivered in Stockholm, Sweden, December 8, 2009.

Prize lecture delivered at the Indiana University Auditorium, Bloomington, IN, February 16, 2010.

Published version of Nobel Prize lecture: “Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems.”American Economic Review 100(3) (June 2010): 641–72.

Overviews of the contributions of Professors Ostrom and Williamson:

More information, including photos, can be found at