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SIMON KUZNETS (1901-1985)

SIMON KUZNETS (1901-1985).Economist, statistician, demographer, and
economic historian. Born in Pinsk, Russia,Kuznets was educated in
Kharkov, and headed a section of the bureau of labor statisticsthere
under the Soviet government before emigrating to the United States at
the age oftwenty-one. He took up studies at Columbia University,
receiving his B.A. in 1923, M.A. in1924, and Ph.D. in 1926. In 1927 he
became a member of the research staff of the NationalBureau of
Economic Research (NBER) where he conducted his seminal work on
theestimation of national income. Both at Columbia and the NBER, he
was strongly influenced by his mentor, economist Wesley C. Mitchell.
Although he remained an active member ofthe NBER until 1960, from the
1950s onward the primary base for Kuznets' research wasthe Committee
on Economic Growth of the Social Science Research Council, where
hespearheaded an international program on the comparative study of
economic growth.Kuznets held faculty appointments at the University of Pennsylvania (1930-1954), JohnsHopkins University (1954-1960), and
Harvard University (1960-1971). He served theUnited States government
as a consultant on national income estimation, chiefly in the1930s,
and associate director of the Bureau of Planning and Statistics, War
ProductionBoard, 1942-44. He was president of the American Economic
Association (1954),American Statistical Association (1949), and was
the third recipient of the Nobel prize ineconomics (1971) for his work
on the comparative study of economic growth.Kuznets' best-known
contributions to population fall under three main heads:
(1)measurement of population change, (2) analysis of interrelations
between long swings in population growth and economic activity(Kuznets
cycles), and (3) analysis of the long termeffect of population growth
on economic growth.
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2Kuznets contributed to the development of new demographic data for
the United States. His NBER Occasional Paper with Ernest Rubin gives
estimates of net immigrationby decade, 1870-1940, and of the foreign
born white population by sex, annually, 1870-1939(Kuznets and Rubin,
1954). In 1951, Kuznets initiated with demographer and
sociologistDorothy S. Thomas a study of population redistribution and
economic growth (Kuznets and Thomas,1957, 1960b, 1964). Under their
joint direction, this work developed benchmark estimates of state
internal migration (by Everett S. Lee), labor force (by Ann R. Miller
and Carol Brainerd), and state income and manufacturing activity (by
Richard A. Easterlin).This work demonstrated conclusively that between
1870 and 1950 both internationaland internal migration in the United States fluctuate markedly over roughly twenty yearperiods. Kuznets had
earlier identified similar long swings in economic time
series(Kuznets, 1930). In a major paper, Kuznets (1958) brought
together these two strands ofwork pointing out a possible causal
mechanism in which a swing in the growth rate ofconsumer goods output
induced a corresponding movement in migration and this, in turn,caused
a swing in population-sensitive capital formation (see also Kuznets
1961). Anoutgrowth of this research on what came to be called Kuznets
cycles was an NBER study oflong swings in population and economic
growth (Abramovitz 1959, 1961, Easterlin 1968,2000).Demographers
typically stress the adverse effects of population growth on economic
growth. Kuznets adopted a more questioning stance. Based on evidence
for 63 developed and developing countries from the early 1950s to
1964, he concluded that there was littleempirical association between
growth rates of population and output per capita, especially within
the developing country bloc (Kuznets 1967, 1973). Kuznets saw the
basic obstacles
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3to economic growth as arising from delays in adjusting social and
political institutions, andviewed population growth, though an
impediment, as of secondary importance (ibid., p. 39).For developed
countries he was even more skeptical of the adverse effect of
populationgrowth, and argued that more rapid population growth might
promote economicdevelopment via a positive impact on the state of
knowledge, the crucial factor underlying modern economic growth
(Kuznets 1960a, pp. 328-30). This, along with Kuznets' empirical
results, stimulated Julian Simon's assault on the premise of
mainstream demography thatpopulation growth inevitably hinders
economic development (Simon, 1977, 1996, 2000).Most comparisons of the
economic well-being of rich and poor use the distributionof income
among families or households. But rich and poor families differ in
size and agecomposition, and a meaningful comparison of economic
welfare needs to allow for such differences. Beyond this, there is the
question of how differences in mortality and fertilityamong income
classes affect and are affected by the size distribution of income.
Theseissues became the primary focus of Kuznets' research following
his retirement from Harvard in 1971 (Kuznets 1979,1980,1989). This
strand of Kuznets' work in demography has yet to be fully followed
up.In the discipline of economics, where theory reigns supreme,
Kuznets, though himself an original and creative thinker, was notable
for his insistence on carefulmeasurement and a respect for facts. In
this regard he was, at heart, a demographer.Richard A. Easterlin
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4References and selected bibliography (For a complete bibliography,
see below, Kuznets,1989, pp. 439-459.)Abramovitz, Moses, 1959.
Statement in Hearings before the Joint EconomicCommittee, 86thCong.,
1stSess., Pt. 2, Historical and Comparative Rates of
Production,Productivity, and Prices, Washington, 411-466.Abramovitz,
Moses, 1961. "The Nature and Significance of Kuznets Cycles,"Economic
Development and Cultural Change, April, 225-248.Easterlin, Richard A.,
1968. Population, Labor Force, and Long Swings in EconomicGrowth: The
American Experience, New York: Columbia University Press.Easterlin,
Richard A., 2000. "Locational Restructuring and Financial
Crisis,"Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, 11, 129-138.Kuznets,
Simon, 1930. Secular Movements in Production and Prices: Their
Natureand Their Bearing Upon Cyclical Fluctations. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Co.Kuznets, Simon, 1958. "Long Swings in the Growth of
Population and in Related Economic Variables," Proceedings of the
American Philosophical Society 102, 25-52.Reprinted in Economic Growth
and Structure: Selected Essays, New York: W.W. Norton,1965, pp.
328-375.Kuznets, Simon, 1960a. "Population Change and Aggregate
Output," inDemographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries.
Special Conference series, no.11. Universities – National Bureau
Committee for Economic Research. Princeton, NJ:Princeton University
Press, 324-40. Reprinted in Economic Growth and Structure: Selected
Essays. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1965, 123-141.
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5Kuznets, Simon, 1961. Capital in the American Economy: its Formation
andFinancing. Assisted by Elizabeth Jenks. Studies in Capital
Formation and Financing 9.National Bureau of Economic Research.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Kuznets, Simon, 1967.
"Population and Economic Growth," in Population Problems.Proceedings
of the American Philosophical Society 3, 170-93. Reprinted in
Population,Capital and Growth: Selected Essays. New York: W.W. Norton
& Co., 1973, 1-48.Kuznets, Simon, 1973. Population, Capital, and
Growth: Selected Essays. NewYork: W.W. Norton & Co.Kuznets, Simon,
1979. Growth, Population, and Income Distribution: Selected Essays.
New York: W.W. Norton & Co.Kuznets, Simon, 1980. "Recent Population
Trends in Less Developed Countries and Implications for Internal
Income Inequality," in Richard A. Easterlin (ed.), Population and
Economic Change in Developing Countries. A Conference Report,
Universities – NationalBureau Committee for Economic Research, no.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press,471-511.Kuznets, Simon, 1989.
Economic Development, the Family, and IncomeDistribution: Selected
Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press.Kuznets, Simon and Ernest
Rubin, 1954. Immigration and the Foreign Born.Occasional Paper 46, New York: National Bureau of Economic Research.Kuznets, Simon, and Dorothy
S. Thomas, 1957,1960b, 1964, eds. Population Redistribution and
Economic Growth: United States, 1870-1950, Philadelphia: American
Philosophical Society, 3 vols., Memoirs of the American Philosophical
Society 45,51,61.
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6Simon, Julian L., 1977. The Economics of Population Growth,
Princeton, NJ:Princeton University Press.Simon, Julian L., 1996. The
Ultimate Resource 2. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Simon,
Julian L., 2000. The Great Breakthrough and Its Cause, Ann Arbor, MI:
TheUniversity of Michigan Press.Biographical and
autobiographicalAbramovitz, Moses, 1971. "Nobel Prize for Economics:
Kuznets and EconomicGrowth." Science, October 29.Ben-Porath, Yoram,
1986. Simon Kuznets in Person and In Writing. The MauriceFalk
Institute for Economic Research in Israel. Discussion Paper No.
86.08.Bergson, Abram, 1986. "Simon Kuznets: 30 April 1901-8 July
1985," American Philosophical Society Yearbook. 134-138.Bergson,
Abram, Harvey Leibenstein, Henry Rosovsky, and Zvi
Griliches(Chairman), 1987. Faculty of Arts and Sciences – Memorial
Minute: Simon Kuznets.Minute placed upon the records at a meeting of
the Harvard University faculty, December16, 1986. Harvard Gazette,
March 20, 1987.Easterlin, Richard A. 1979. "Simon Kuznets,"
International Encyclopedia of theSocial Sciences, v. 18, Biographical
Supplement, New York: Free Press, 393-97.
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7Easterlin, Richard A., 1987. "Simon Kuznets," in Eatwell, John,
Murray Milgate,and Peter Newman, eds., The New Palgrave: A Dictionary
of Economics, New York: TheStockton Press, 69-71.Easterlin, Richard
A., 1989. "Foreword" in Simon Kuznets, Economic Development,the
Family, and Income Distribution: Selected Essays, Cambridge: Cambridge
UniversityPress, 1-6.Fogel, Robert W., 2000. "Simon S. Kuznets: April
30, 1901-July 9, 1985," NationalBureau of Economic Research Working
Paper 7787 (to appear in National Academy ofSciences, Biographical
Memoirs). Available at
http://www.nber.org/papers/w7787.Kapuria-Foreman, Vibha and Mark
Perlman, 1995. "An Economic Historian'sEconomist: Remembering Simon
Kuznets," Economic Journal, 105 (November), 1524-1547.Kuznets, Simon,
1989. "A Brief Talk by Kuznets," in Simon Kuznets,
EconomicDevelopment, the Family, and Income Distribution: Selected
Essays. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 434-436.Kuznets, Simon.
"Simon Kuznets." Available
Erik, 1971. "Simon Kuznets' Contribution to Economics," Swedish
Journal of Economics 4, 444-461.