An Interview with Moses Abramovitz

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Cliometric Society


Moses Abramovitz is Coe Professor of American Economic History, Emeritus, at Stanford University. This interview was conducted by Alex Field of Santa Clara University on December 9 and December 16, 1992, in the offices of the Journal of Economic Literature at Stanford. Alex writes: Moses Abramovitz is one of a select group of scholars whose pathbreaking empirical work has vastly expanded our understanding of the dimensions and determinants of economic growth and fluctuations in the industrializing and industrialized countries of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is best known for his work on inventories, which identified the critical role of fluctuations in inventory investment in accounting for short term cycles in output, for his studies of long swings of growth in the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly their monetary and balance of payments components, for his work separating the relative contributions of technical change and capital accumulation to economic growth in the 19th and 20th centuries, and, most recently, for his research on catch-up and convergence: the closing of the productivity gap between the United States and its competitors in Western Europe and Japan. Professor Abramovitz was educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities and has had a long association with the National Bureau of Economic Research. After working as an economist for the Federal Government during and immediately after the second world war, he came to Stanford in 1948 where he taught until his retirement in 1977. He was Managing Editor of the Journal of Economic Literature from 1980 to 1985. Past president of the American Economic Association, the Western Economic Association, and the Economic History Association, he remains an Associate Editor of the JEL and an active scholar. Having first met Moe when I joined the Stanford department as an assistant professor in 1974, and having worked with him as an Associate Editor of the JEL since 1981, I was offered an opportunity in this interview to explore and place in perspective his many intellectual contributions, as well as some of the formative influences on his work.


Reprinted in Reflections on the Cliometric Revolution: Conversations with Economic Historians, eds John S. Lyons and Louis P. Cain and Samuel Williamson. London, Routledge, 2008, pp. 51-63.