The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Nathan, Robert Roy (Born 1908)

  • J. K. Galbraith
Reference work entry


Nathan was born in Dayton, Ohio, and had his undergraduate and graduate training at the University of Pennsylvania and his legal training at Georgetown University. Strongly influenced by Simon Kuznets, he was one of the handful of innovating statisticians who brought National Income and Gross National Product accounting into active use in the United States government, where, from 1934 to 1940, he was Chief of the National Income Division of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce of the Department of Commerce. With the increased threat of war he moved in 1940 from the Department of Commerce to the Office of Production Management, later the War Production Board, where he brought national production accounting to bear on the problems of war production. Showing therefrom that unused capacity and possible weapons production were far greater than commonly believed, he was largely responsible for the huge Victory Program approved by President Roosevelt a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then, with Simon Kuznets, who had joined him in Washington, he worked out feasible schedules for weapons production in the early months of the war. The importance of this work for the success of the American war effort cannot be exaggerated. The Germans, having no analysis of comparable value, had no way of knowing their production possibilities and, in consequence, greatly underestimated them.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. K. Galbraith
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