Three American economists have been awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics for work that helps to identify market systems that efficiently allocate resources.

The three economists honored Monday by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences are Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson.

The Nobel prize committee says the trio laid the foundations of "mechanism design theory," which allows economists to distinguish market systems that work well from those that do not.

The committee says the theory plays a key role in many areas of economics and parts of political science.

The economics award is not one of the original Nobel prizes. It was created in 1968 by the Swedish central bank in memory of Alfred Nobel, the founder of the awards.

Last year, American economist Edmund Phelps won the prize for explaining the relationship between inflation and unemployment, an analysis that has had a major impact on macroeconomic policy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.