Austerity Takes 20 Percent Out of Nobel Prize
Policy + Politics

Austerity Takes 20 Percent Out of Nobel Prize


With Europe’s economy on seriously rocky terrain, it’s no surprise that even the folks at the prestigious Nobel Foundation in Stockholm are cutting back on the big bucks awarded to prize winners. 

The Nobel Foundation announced Monday that the money for the awards, typically given for excellence each year in literature, physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, and peace, would drop to 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.12 million) from 10 million crowns (or $1.4 million), or about a 20 percent. A companion award in economic sciences, handed out by the Swedish Riksbank, will also be trimmed back.

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“The Nobel Foundation regards this as a necessary measure in order to avoid an undermining of its capital” on a long term basis, the Foundation, a private institution, said in a statement. 

“During the past decade, the average return on the Foundation's capital has fallen short of the overall sum of all Nobel Prizes and operating expenses. The costs of the Nobel Foundation’s central administration and the Nobel festivities are therefore being reviewed,” the Foundation said.

It’s the first time in 63 years that the Nobel prize money has been lowered.

In addition, organizers, who currently operate on about a $17 million annual budget, will examine other expenses, including administration costs. Negotiations with suppliers to the Nobel brand are also under way.

Set up in 1900, the Nobel Foundation was established after Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist and engineer who invented dynamite, created the prize in 1895. He wanted the prizes to be given to those individuals who made contributions for the “benefit of mankind.” Each prize consists of a medal, personal diploma, and a cash award.

When President Obama was given the Nobel Peace prize in 2009 he donated all of his winnings – $1.4 million – to charities that included Fisher House, which provides housing for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers ($250,000); the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, for longterm relief efforts in Haiti following the earthquake ($200,000); $125,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the leading Hispanic scholarship organization; $125,000 to the United Negro College Fund; $125,000 to the American Indian College Fund; and $100,000 to AfriCare, which addresses health and HIV/AIDS, food security and agriculture, and water resource development.