The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Matias Vernengo, Esteban Perez Caldentey, Barkley J. Rosser Jr

Abramovitz, Moses (1912–2000)

  • Richard A. Easterlin
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-349-95121-5_73-2
  • 1.1k Downloads

Abstract

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Abramovitz was educated at Harvard (AB, 1932) and Columbia (Ph.D., 1939). He held faculty appointments at Columbia (l940–2, 1946–8) and Stanford University (1948–77) and was a member of the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1938 to 1969. From 1942 to 1946 he worked as an economist for several organizations within the United States government. He was elected president of the American Economic Association in 1979–80.

Keywords

Abramovitz, M. Aggregate demand theory Business cycles Economic growth in the very long run Inventories Kuznets cycles 

JEL Classifications

B31 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Abramovitz was educated at Harvard (AB, 1932) and Columbia (Ph.D., 1939). He held faculty appointments at Columbia (l940–2, 1946–8) and Stanford University (1948–77) and was a member of the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1938 to 1969. From 1942 to 1946 he worked as an economist for several organizations within the United States government. He was elected president of the American Economic Association in 1979–80.

Abramovitz’s work, which was particularly influenced by Wesley C. Mitchell and Simon Kuznets, centres on the study of long-term economic growth and fluctuations in industrialized market economies. His first major contribution was an empirical study of business inventories that demonstrated the importance of inventory change in the shorter swings of the business cycle, and showed how the classification of inventories by stage of processing aided in the explanation of their behaviour (Abramovitz 1950). From this, Abramovitz went on to the study of longer-term fluctuations, Kuznets cycles of 15 to 20 years duration, and formulated the most widely accepted interpretation of these cycles. Using Keynesian aggregate demand theory, Abramovitz developed a model linking Kuznets cycles to long swings in building cycles and demographic variables, and to shorter-term business cycles (Abramovitz 1959a, 1961, 1964, 1968).

Contemporaneously with his work on fluctuations, Abramovitz made important contributions to long-term economic growth. He was one of the first to demonstrate that only a small share of long-term output growth in the United States was explained by factor inputs (Abramovitz 1956). He documented and analysed the increasing role of government during long-term economic growth (Abramovitz 1957, 1981) and directed and coordinated a comparative study of the post-war economic growth of a number of industrialized market nations (Abramovitz 1979b, 1986). Finally, he challenged in characteristically perceptive fashion the facile linkage made by many economists between economic growth and improving human welfare (Abramovitz 1959b, 1979a, 1982).

Selected Works

  • 1950. Inventories and business cycles. New York: NBER.

  • 1956. Resource and output trends in the United States since 1870. American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings 46(2): 5–23.

  • 1957. (With V. Eliasberg.) The growth of public employment in Great Britain. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • 1959a. Long swings in U.S. economic growth. Statement presented to joint economic committee of the congress. Hearings before joint economic committee of the congress of the U.S. on Employment, Growth and Price Levels, Part 2, 11–66, 10 April.

  • 1959b. The welfare interpretation of secular trends in national income and production. In The allocation of economic resources: Essays in honor of Bernard F. Haley, ed. M. Abramovitz et al. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • 1961. The nature and significance of Kuznets cycles. Economic Development and Cultural Change 9: 225–248.

  • 1964. Evidence of long swings in aggregate construction since the civil war. Occasional paper no. 90. New York: NBER.

  • 1968. The passing of the Kuznets cycle. Economica 349–367.

  • 1979a. Economic growth and its discontents. In Economics and human welfare: Essays in honor of Tibor Scitovsky, ed. M. Boskin. New York: Academic Press.

  • 1979b. Rapid growth potential and its realization: The experience of capitalist economies in the postwar period. In Economic growth and resources. Proceedings of the fifth world congress of the international economic association, vol. 1. London/New York: Macmillan.

  • 1981. Welfare quandaries and productivity concerns. Presidential address to the American economic association. American Economic Review 71: 1–17.

  • 1982. The retreat from economic advance. In Progress and its discontents, ed. G.A. Almond, M. Chodorow, and R.H. Pearce. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • 1986. Catching up, forging ahead and falling behind. Journal of Economic History 46: 385–406.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Easterlin
    • 1
  1. 1.