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Elinor Ostrom
New institutional economics
Birth August 7, 1933 (1933-08-07) (age 76)
Nationality United States
Institution Indiana University, Arizona State University
Field Public economics
Political economics
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Influences Friedrich von Hayek
James M. Buchanan
Awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2009)
Information at IDEAS/RePEc

Elinor Ostrom (born August 7, 1933) is an American political scientist. She was awarded the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson, for "her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons".[1] She is the first woman to win the prize in this category. Ostrom lives in Bloomington, Ind., and is on the faculty of both Indiana University and Arizona State University. She is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University in Bloomington and Research Professor and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe.



Ostrom graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1951 and then received a B.A. (with honors) in political science at UCLA in 1954. She was awarded an M.A. in 1962 and a Ph.D. in 1965, both from UCLA in political science.


In 1973, she co-founded A Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis[2] at Indiana University with her husband, Vincent Ostrom. Examining the use of collective action, trust, and cooperation in the management of common pool resources, her institutional approach to public policy, known as the institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework, has been considered sufficiently distinct to be thought of as a separate school of public choice theory.[3] She has authored many books in the fields of organizational theory, political science, and public administration.


Ostrom is considered one of the leading scholars in the study of common pool resources. In particular, Ostrom's work emphasizes how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields. Common pool resources include many forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems. She conducted her field studies on the management of pasture by locals in Africa and irrigation systems management in villages of western Nepal. Ostrom's work has considered how societies have developed diverse institutional arrangements for managing natural resources and avoiding ecosystem collapse in many cases, even though some arrangements have failed to prevent resource exhaustion. Her current work emphasizes the multifaceted nature of human–ecosystem interaction and argues against any singular "panacea" for individual social-ecological system problems.[citation needed]

Ostrom identifies eight "design principles" of stable local common pool resource management:[4]

  1. Clearly defined boundaries (effective exclusion of external unentitled parties);
  2. Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources are adapted to local conditions;
  3. Collective-choice arrangements allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
  4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
  5. There is a scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
  6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution are cheap and of easy access;
  7. The self-determination of the community is recognized by higher-level authorities;
  8. In the case of larger common-pool resources: organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.

Solving the Climate Crisis

Ostrom cautions against single governmental units at global level to solve the collective action problem of coordinating work against environmental destruction. Partly, this is due to their complexity, and partly to the diversity of actors involved. Her proposal is that of a polycentric approach, where key management decisions should be made as close to the scene of events and the actors involved as possible.[5]


Ostrom is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and past president of the American Political Science Association and the Public Choice Society. In 1999 she became the first woman to receive the prestigious Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science and in 2005 received the James Madison Award by the American Political Science Association. In 2008, she received the William H. Riker Prize in political science, and became the first woman to do so. In 2009, she received the Tisch Civic Engagement Research Prize from the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

Nobel Prize

In 2009, Ostrom became the first woman to receive the prestigious Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Ostrom "for her analysis of economic governance," saying her work had demonstrated how common property could be successfully managed by groups using it. Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson shared the 10-million Swedish kronor (£910,000; $1.44 m) prize for their separate work in economic governance.[6]

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Ostrom's 'research brought this topic from the fringe to the forefront of scientific attention', "by showing how common resources—forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands, can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies". Ostrom's work in this regard, challenged conventional wisdom, showing that common resources can be successfully managed without government regulation or privatization .[7]

Notable publications

  • Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action Ostrom, Elinor, Cambridge University Press, 1990
  • Institutional Incentives and Sustainable Development: Infrastructure Policies in Perspective Ostrom, Elinor, and Schroeder, Larry, and Wynne, Susan, Oxford: Westview Press, 1993
  • Rules, Games, and Common Pool Resources Ostrom, Elinor, and Gardner, Roy, and Walker, James, Editors, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1994
  • with Crawford, Sue E. S., “A Grammar of Institutions.” American Political Science Review 89, no.3 (September 1995): 582–600.
  • A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action: Presidential Address, American Political Science Association, 1997. Ostrom, Elinor. The American Political Science Review 92(1): 1–22. 1998
  • Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons for Experimental Research, Volume VI in the Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust, Elinor Ostrom and James Walker, Editors, Russell Sage Foundation, 2003
  • Understanding Institutional Diversity Ostrom, Elinor, Princeton, Princeton University Press. 2005.
  • Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice Ostrom, Elinor and Hess, Charlotte, Editors, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2006.
  • Linking the Formal and Informal Economy: Concepts and Policies, edited with Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis and Ravi Kanbur (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006; paperback published in 2007)


  1. ^ Sveriges Riksbank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009, Sveriges Riksbank, 12 October 2009,, retrieved 2009-10-12 
  2. ^ "The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis". Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  3. ^ William C. Mitchell (1988). "Virginia, Rochester, and Bloomington: Twenty-Five Years of Public Choice and Political Science". Public Choice 56 (2): 101-119. doi:10.1007/BF00115751. 
  4. ^ Ostrom, Elinor (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-40599-8. 
  5. ^ Vedeld, Trond: A New Global Game - And How Best to Play It. The NIBR International Blog, 12.02.2010
  6. ^ First woman wins economics Nobel Retrieved 12 October 2009
  7. ^ American Is First Woman To Win Economics Nobel Retrieved 12 October 2009

External links

Simple English

Elinor Ostrom born August 7 1933 in California, USA is an American scientist who won the Nobel Prize 2009 in Economic Sciences which she had to share with Oliver Williamson. Ostrom became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in this category.


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