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Simon Kuznets: Cautious Empiricist of the Eastern European Jewish Diaspora

41 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2009 Last revised: 5 Sep 2012

E. Glen Weyl

Microsoft Research; Yale University

Date Written: February 11, 2010


Simon Kuznets, Eastern European Jewish immigrant and Nobel laureate, typified data-driven caution of the discipline of empirical economics he helped found. Yet a motive force behind his path-breaking development economics of inequality, culture, institutions, demographics and human capital was a desire to understand his past and people. This connection, hidden in his relationship to mainstream economics, manifests itself in his less-known work on Jewish history and economics. The subtle synergy of Kuznets’s motivation and methodology parallels a broader paradox of how, in the twentieth century, Jews of Eastern European descent transformed one of the most informal and anti-Semitic American sciences.

Keywords: Simon Kuznets, history and economics of the Jews, history of economic thought, development economics, human capital

JEL Classification: B22, B25, B31

Suggested Citation

Weyl, E. Glen, Simon Kuznets: Cautious Empiricist of the Eastern European Jewish Diaspora (February 11, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Eric Glen Weyl (Contact Author)

Microsoft Research ( email )

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(857) 998-4513 (Phone)


Yale University ( email )

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New Haven, CT 06520-8268
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