Professors Thomas Sargent, left, and Christopher Sims share the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
Professors Thomas Sargent, left, and Christopher Sims share the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
PHOTO: Courtesy new york university/princeton

Story highlights

NEW: "We're basically statistical historians," Thomas Sargent says

Research doesn't have any direct solutions for economic ailments, one winner says

The two have studied how policy changes or shocks affect the economy

(CNNMoney) —  

Two American economists won the Nobel Prize for economics on Monday for their work studying how changes in government policies or economic shocks affect a nation’s economy.

Thomas Sargent, a professor at New York University, and Christopher Sims, a professor at Princeton University, both 68, will share the award and the $1.49 million prize money for their work.

“We’re basically statistical historians,” Sargent said Monday. “We comb past economic events to give us clues what will happen in the future.

The global economy has been shaken by a series of shocks and market reactions that resulted in the worst global economic downturn since the end of World War II.

Sims dismissed the arguments some have made that the failings of economics were responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008. He said he is confident that the kind of strict analysis recognized by the Nobel committee will be central to finding solutions to the current problems.

Still, he added at a press conference at Princeton, “the answers are not likely to be simple. Asking for an opinion off the top of our heads, you shouldn’t expect much.”

Asked how he would invest his share of the winnings, Sims said he would keep it in cash while he considers what to do with it.

Sims and Sargent have known each other for decades, both receiving their doctorates from Harvard in 1968. While their research was carried out independently, the work of each is considered to be complementary.

The Nobel committee’s announcement said Sims and Sargent’s work studies the two-way relationship between policy and the economy – how policy affects the economy and vice versa.

“The laureates’ seminal work during the 1970s and 1980s has been adopted by both researchers and policymakers throughout the world,” said the committee’s statement. “Today, the methods developed by Sargent and Sims are essential tools in macroeconomic analysis.”

Among the issues the two studied were the effects of interest rate and inflation target changes by central banks and the impact of economic shocks such as oil price spikes.