Who is Zvi Griliches

Zvi Griliches was an empirical economist who taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard University. His work revolved around statistical analysis techniques that would provide more accurate measures of economic concepts, notably productivity.


Zvi Griliches was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1930. During the Second World War, he survived the concentration camp at Dachau. After liberation, he taught himself English in a British internment camp and eventually went on to serve in the Israeli army before earning a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. Griliches taught at the University of Chicago between 1964 and 1969, where he received the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association. In 1969, Griliches joined the faculty of Harvard University, where he served as president of the American Economic Association and the Econometric Society.

Griliches’s time at the University of Chicago coincided with a revolution in the study of economic statistics brought about by advances in computing technology. His research improved the basis for measuring many economic phenomena. For example, in the process of attempting to isolate the effects of inflation on prices, Griliches codeveloped a technique called hedonics to provide a more accurate measure of the importance of economic variables to the value of goods and services. Other fields on which Griliches’ work touched include the measurement of productivity, the economic benefits of education, growth theory and the accurate measurement of productivity.

Late in his life, Griliches took up the study of numismatics, in part due to his genealogical studies which turned up ancestors who worked at the St. Petersburg Mint in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This study produced an article which appeared in the Journal of the Russian Numismatic Society in 1998.

Griliches succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1999.


Many of the advancements pioneered by Zvi Griliches came in the field of econometrics, which applies statistical modeling to data in order to test economic hypotheses. Griliches’s doctoral dissertation followed the spread of hybrid corn in American markets, demonstrating a link between spending on research and development and national economic gain. Later researchers were able to generalize these concepts to demonstrate links between economic factors and the development of new technology.

The field of econometrics makes heavy use of complex statistical and mathematical tools, including regression analysis, time series methods, frequency distributions, and a range of probability-related techniques. The need to crunch the huge amount of data necessary to prove or disprove economic hypotheses requires enough computing power that it has spawned a series of software designed specifically to deal with sophisticated econometric modeling.