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The Power of a Single NumberA Political History of GDP$
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Philipp Lepenies

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231175104

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231175104.001.0001

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Simon Kuznets and the Politics of Gross National Product

Simon Kuznets and the Politics of Gross National Product

The United States

(p.57) 4 Simon Kuznets and the Politics of Gross National Product
The Power of a Single Number

Philipp Lepenies

, Jeremy Gaines
Columbia University Press

The case of the US. In the US, congress asks a Soviet emigré, Simon Kuznets to provide national income estimates in order to better understand the effects of the Great Depression on the US economy in the early 1930s. Kuznets invents a similar statistical figure as Clark (but independent of him) that also focuses on income. Yet, during the war, Kuznet's methodology is adapted against his will to provide an aggregate figure on production instead of one on income - leading to the emergence of the precursor of GDP. Although useful for war purposes, Kuznets vehemently opposes this practice and does not tire to argue against giving production more weight than income.

Keywords:   Kuznets, US, income versus production, birth of GDP

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