David R. Henderson  

Simon Kuznets: An Appreciation

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I second co-blogger Bryan Caplan's appreciation of the late Simon Kuznets. One of my pleasures in writing the many bios of famous economists for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics was researching and writing his bio. Some excerpts from the Encyclopedia bio:

Kuznets later helped the U.S. Department of Commerce to standardize the measurement of GNP. In the late 1940s, however, he broke with the Commerce Department over its refusal to use GNP as a measure of economic well-being. He had wanted the department to measure the value of unpaid housework because this is an important component of production. The department refused, and still does.

Also, a comment on how he won his Nobel Prize:
Many economists believe that Kuznets received the 1971 Nobel Prize for his measurement in national income accounting, and certainly that was enough to merit the prize. But in fact, the prize was awarded for his empirical work on economic growth. In this work Kuznets identified a new economic era--which he called "modern economic growth"--that began in northwestern Europe in the last half of the eighteenth century. The growth spread south and east and by the end of the nineteenth century had reached Russia and Japan. In this era, per capita income rose by about 15 percent or more each decade, something that had not happened in earlier centuries.

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Daniel Kuehn writes:

They are making important moves on the household production front. It's not to the stage of the R&D accounts where they have detailed data but they're working up to it and have released a few reports.

This is VERY important, but historically it's been more important to labor economics than macroeconomics. It didn't become relevant to macroeconomics until some of the RBC models brought household production in to explain some odd behavior of some of the labor series.

It is quite difficult to estimate, though.

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