Simon Kuznets

Simon Kuznets
(1901 - 1985)

Russian-born American economist and statistician, winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Economics.
Kuznets emigrated to the United States in 1922, 15 years after his father had emigrated. (His father changed the family name to Smith, but the young Kuznets preferred his original name.) He was educated at Columbia University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1926. In 1927 he joined the National Bureau of Economic Research, working with its founder, Wesley Mitchell. It was there that Kuznets developed his pioneering studies of U.S. national income and his more general work on economic time series, resulting in comprehensive studies of the economic growth of nations. He later taught at a number of universities (University of Pennsylvania, 1930-54; Johns Hopkins, 1954-60; Harvard, 1960-71).

His work emphasized the complexity of underlying economic data, stressing the importance of large numbers of observations and the limitations of simple models based on one phase of historical experience. According to Kuznets, economic data must include information on population structure, technology, the quality of labour, government structure, trade, and markets in order to provide an accurate model. In particular, he emphasized, on the basis of the statistical series that he accumulated, how little of economic growth can be attributed in the conventional manner to the accumulation of labour and capital. He also described the existence of cyclical variations in growth rates (now called "Kuznets cycles") and their links with underlying factors such as population.

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