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Simon Smith Kuznets

demographer , economic historian , economist , statistician

Russian-born American economist and statistician, he won the 1971 Nobel Prize for Economics. He was a member and leader of many economic and statistical societies and associations. Kuznets made a great contribution to economic history and economics as a science. He is known as the father of GDP, the author of the Kuznets swing and Kuznets curve.


Simon Kuznets was born on April 30, 1901 in Pinsk, Russian Empire (now Belarus). Son of Abraham and Pauline (Friedman) Kuznets, Simon was raised in a Jewish family. 'Kuznets' stands for 'blacksmith' in Russian.


Due to his father's leave to America, Simon and his family moved to Rivne (Ukraine) to their relatives, where he attended school with his elder brother. Some years later the family had to leave to Kharkiv as jewish refugees. Simon continued his school education in Kharkiv and went on to be a student of the Institute of Commerce. He used to be falsely considered to have attended the University of Kharkiv, which wasn't actually functioning because of the civil war.

In 1922 Simon and his brothers immigrated to New York, where their father lived (Abraham Kuznets changed the family name to Smith, though the young Kuznets preferred the original name). Simon continued his higher education in the University of Columbia under the supervision of W.C. Mitchell. He received a Bachelor of Arts in 1923, Master of Arts in 1924 and Ph.D. in 1926. As his magister thesis, he defended the essay “Economic system of Dr. Schumpeter, presented and analyzed”, written in Kharkiv. From 1925 to 1926, Kuznets spent time studying economic patterns in prices as the Research Fellow at the Social Science Research Council. It was this work that led to his book "Secular Movements in Production and Prices", defended as a doctoral thesis and published in 1930.


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. His study of American national income began with statistics from 1869, encompassing a long-term approach that had never been attempted. Out of this work came an understanding of how to measure gross national product (GNP). Kuznets has developed methods for determining the U.S. national income.The first report by him of U.S. national income "National income, 1929-1932", was published in 1934 by the Ministry of Commerce.The resulting time series Kuznets GNP (gross national product) and other macro-economic indicators for individual countries and the long stretches of time, he used to analyze the problems of economic growth, in particular, the problem of long centennial of its oscillations. In one of his early work on the dynamics of production and prices in the U.S., he has revealed variations in the duration of 20-25 years. This kind of variations included in the modern literature as the "Kuznets cycles." Kuznets’s research set high standards for all similar studies that would follow.

During the Second World War, 1942-1944 Smith led the Office of Planning and Statistics Committee of the U.S. weapons. In the years 1953-1963 he was chairman of Falk Project for Economic Development of Israel, and in 1963 - the honorary chairman of the Institute of Economic Studies Maurice Falk (Israel).

After his work with the federal government, Kuznets taught at the University of Pennsylvania (1930–54), Johns Hopkins University (1954–60), and Harvard University (1960–71).


  • He is known for his work in the area of evaluation of national income and national product (GNP), statistical studies of economic development and its cycles, its connection with the distribution. The scientist also conducted comparative historical studies of economic development of countries.

    The term "gross domestic product" was proposed in 1934 by Simon Kuznets. He studied inequality over time, and his results formed the Kuznets Curve. His name is asociated with Kuznets Cycles, or "long swings", Kuznets curves.

    He was involved in: Fellow Royal Statistical Society, American Statistical Association (president 1949), American Association for the Advancement of Science, Econometric Society, British Academy (correspondent); member American Economics Association (president 1954), Royal Academy Sciences Sweden, American Philosophical Society, Internat. Statistical Institute, American Academy Arts and Sciences, United States Academy Sciences.

    In 2013 The Kharkiv National University of Economics where he studied in 1918–1921 was named after him (Semen Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics).



Abram Kuznets - Bank clerk.

Pauline Kuznets(Friedman)

Edith Handler

Judith Kuznets

Paul Kuznets

Professor of economics at the University of Indiana