Paul Krugman of Princeton won the Nobel Prize in Economics this morning. Here's the Nobel Committee press release:
Krugman's approach is based on the premise that many goods and services can be produced more cheaply in long series, a concept generally known as economies of scale. Meanwhile, consumers demand a varied supply of goods. As a result, small-scale production for a local market is replaced by large-scale production for the world market, where firms with similar products compete with one another.
Traditional trade theory assumes that countries are different and explains why some countries export agricultural products whereas others export industrial goods. The new theory clarifies why worldwide trade is in fact dominated by countries which not only have similar conditions, but also trade in similar products – for instance, a country such as Sweden that both exports and imports cars. This kind of trade enables specialization and large-scale production, which result in lower prices and a greater diversity of commodities.
Economies of scale combined with reduced transport costs also help to explain why an increasingly larger share of the world population lives in cities and why similar economic activities are concentrated in the same locations. Lower transport costs can trigger a self-reinforcing process whereby a growing metropolitan population gives rise to increased large-scale production, higher real wages and a more diversified supply of goods. This, in turn, stimulates further migration to cities. Krugman's theories have shown that the outcome of these processes can well be that regions become divided into a high-technology urbanized core and a less developed "periphery".
Tyler Cowen (Paul Krugman wins the Nobel Prize) and Alex Tabarrok (What is New Trade Theory) explain the science and its significance. Arvind Subramanian's 2006 profile is a very good introduction: Economist as Crusader. After the announcement, Krugman provided links to an autobiography and a short essay on how he works, at his weblog: A bit of autobiography. The Economist: Bold Strokes. A strong economic stylist wins the Nobel prize.
Photo from article on Krugman by Arvind Subramanian in IMF's Finance & Development