They're overwhelmingly male, American, and their work has probably touched your life in some way, though you may not know it.
That's the way it is with the Nobel Prize in economic sciences, slated to be awarded Monday. Only one woman has ever won the prize since it was first awarded in 1969. And roughly 70 per cent of past laureates are either American, or dual citizens of the U.S. and another country. Three are Canadian-born - William Vickrey, Myron Scholes and Robert Mundell.
The Nobel Foundation's six-member economic prize committee keeps close guard on its list of candidates for the prize, worth 10 million Swedish kroner (about $1.5-million). But bloggers, odds-makers and pundits eagerly fill the void with their best guesses. A New Zealand-based online futures dealer (www.ipredict.co.nz) rates British-born Harvard economist Oliver Hart, University of Chicago behavioural economist Richard Thaler and Yale real estate guru Robert Shiller among the top favourites.
Here's a look at several worthy choices, and the work they do.
THE POLITICALLY CORRECT: CLIMATE CHANGE
William Nordhaus(American, Yale), 69: Author of complex models to determine the most economically efficient ways to deal with the effects of climate change.
Best-known work: A Question of Balance.
Martin Weitzman(American, Harvard), 68: His research significantly raised estimates of the cost of climate change and buttressed the case for corporate profit-sharing plans.
Best-known works: The Share Economy: Conquering Stagflation and Income, Wealth, and the Maximum Principal.
THE TOPICALLY CORRECT: GOVERNMENT FINANCES AND DEFICITS
Alberto Alesina (Italian, Harvard), 53: His work has shown that tackling government deficits with "large, credible, and decisive" spending cuts spurs economic growth by calming bond markets and lowering interest rates.
Best-known work: The Size of Nations.
Robert Barro (American, Harvard), 66: Pioneered the notion that central banks should stick to firm inflation targets to bolster their credibility with markets.
Best-known work: Rational Expectations and the Role of Monetary Policy.
THE CREDIT CRUNCH: CREDIT CYCLES AND FINANCE
Robert Shiller (American, Yale), 64: Expert on speculative bubbles in real estate and stocks who accurately predicted the 2008 credit crunch and housing collapse.
Best-known work: Irrational Exuberance.
Nobuhiro Kiyotaki(Japanese, Princeton), 55, along with John H. Moore of Scotland: The pair showed how economic shocks are transmitted through economies via credit and asset prices.
Best-known work: Credit Cycles (with Prof. Moore).
Eugene Fama (American, University of Chicago), 71: regarded as the father of modern finance, his research into asset pricing and more efficient markets helped pioneer futures contracts and other hedging techniques.
Best-known work: The Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns, with Kenneth French of Dartmouth.
Bengt Holmstrom (Finnish, MIT), 61: His work contributed to the development of the theory of contracting and incentives.
Best-known work: The Firm as an Incentive System.
THE MICROECONOMY: SOCIAL AND BEHAVIOURAL ECONOMICS
Oliver Hart (British, Harvard), 62: His work in contracts has helped economists understand why companies merge and split apart, and a Harvard prof hasn't won the prize since 1997.
Best-known work: Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure.
Richard Thaler (American, University of Chicago), 65: An expert in behavioural finance, his research is focused on the kinds of financial decisions people make and how to improve them. He coined the phrase "choice architecture" as a guide to making better choices.
Best-known work: The Winner's Curse.
Alvin Roth (American, Harvard), 58: He applied mathematical tools and game theory to help fix broken systems, such as matching kids to public schools, donors to kidney recipients, and residents to medical schools.
Best-known work: Two-Sided Matching: A Study in Game-Theoretic Modeling and Analysis.
Paul Romer (American, Stanford), 55: His research has focused on technology and society, including the link between technological change and growth. He coined the phrase, "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste" and has pushed the idea of newly built charter cities.
Best-known work: Endogenous Technological Change.
Ernst Fehr (Austrian, University of Zurich and MIT), 54: Argues that social preferences are the key to understanding the impact of competition, collective action and property rights.
Best-known work: Why Social Preferences Matter: The Impact of Non-Selfish Motives on Competition, Cooperation and Incentives.
Dale Jorgenson (American, Harvard), 77: Merged economics and statistics to quantify the impact of technology on economic growth and investment behaviour.
Best-known work: Information Technology and the American Growth Resurgence.
Jean Tirole (French, Toulouse), 57: One of the world's leading economic theorists with key contributions to game theory, bank regulation and corporate finance.
Best-known work: The Theory of Corporate Finance.
OUT OF FAVOUR: GLOBALIZATION
Jagdish Bhagwati (Indian/American, Columbia), 76: A champion of free trade and globalization, his research has shown how trade makes both rich and poor countries more productive.
Best-known work: In Defense of Globalization.