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COLLECTION Identifier: HUGFP 153

Papers of Zvi Griliches, ca. 1930-2000


Zvi Griliches (1930-1999) was a professor of economics at Harvard University (1969-1999) and one of the world's leading authorities in the use of mathematical and statistical tools in the study of economic data and problems. These paper pertain chiefly to his research and writing, but also contain teaching records and family and biographical information.


  • 1930-2000


Researcher access

Open for research with the following exceptions: Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years. Personnel and student records are closed for 80 years. Requires review by archivist.


49 cubic feet (132 document boxes, 1 flat file box, 2 tube boxes)

The Papers of Zvi Griliches document the contributions he made to the development of econometrics, a technique of economic analysis that expresses economic theory in terms of mathematical relationships and the testing of those relationships empirically through statistical research. These papers include biographical materials, correspondence, writings, research notes, conference files, and teaching materials. This collection also includes a large volume of genealogical material that describes Griliches's family history.

This collection is predominantly in English, but includes materials in Hebrew and Russian.



Zvi Griliches (1930-1999) was a professor of economics at Harvard University (1969-1999) and one of the world's leading authorities in the use of mathematical and statistical tools in the study of economic data and problems.

Early Family Life

Zvi Griliches was born on September 12, 1930 in Kaunas, Lithuania to Efim Ilyich Griliches and Clara (Ziv) Griliches. He had one sister, Ellen, born on July 8, 1933 (died June 4, 1996). Zvi's father, although a chemical engineer, worked in his wife's family-owned tobacco factory.

Zvi and his family lived a comfortable Jewish middle-class life prior to World War II. However, life changed for him and his family when the Russians invaded Lithuania (1940) and nationalized his mother's family's tobacco factory. Further misfortune would befall the Griliches family in the following year, when the Germans invaded Russia. With the arrival of the Germans, Zvi and his family were ordered into the Jewish ghetto at Kaunas. As a young boy in the ghetto, Zvi read the books that he collected from abandoned homes and worked with his mother in a rubber recycling plant. At the same time, his father worked in the ghetto's Arbeitsamt (employment office), part of the ghetto's internal self-management group.

In the summer of 1944, with the Russian army advancing, the Griliches family was evacuated from the Kaunas ghetto and moved to Stutthof, near Danzig (now Gdansk), and then to a work camp in the Dachau system of Bavaria (January 1945). Here at Stutthof the men and woman were separated and Zvi saw his parents for the last time. His mother died in March or April 1945 from typhus; his father died of hunger and diarrhea at the age of 49 in February 1945.

As the American army advanced, Griliches was evacuated to the Alps. He was liberated by American troops on May 2, 1945. Not yet 15, Griliches had lost all his immediate family except his sister, who had hidden in a Lithuanian orphanage during the war.

After the war, Zvi spent two years in Munich, joining a Zionist youth group, Hashomer Hazair. He then sailed illegally to Palestine where he was captured by the British and interned on the island of Cyprus for seven months. While on Cyprus he taught himself English. Arriving in Haifa in 1947 at the age of 17, Zvi served briefly in the Israeli Army. After his military service, Zvi worked on a kibbutz, learned Hebrew, and used correspondene courses and tutors to prepare himself for the national high school equivalency exams for entrance into Hebrew University.


Despite his lack of formal schooling, Zvi entered Hebrew University as a student of history in 1950. Obtaining entry into the United States in 1951, Zvi entered the University of California at Berkeley as an agricultural economics student and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1953 and his Master of Science degree in 1954. Interested in applying mathematical and statistical tools to economic problems and data, he enrolled at the University of Chicago as a graduate student in 1954. He chose Chicago because the school had a strong agricultural economics concentration. At Chicago he did a large amount of work in economic theory and econometrics, earning his Master of Arts degree in 1954 and his Ph.D. in economics in 1957.

The University of Chicago

Zvi began his teaching career at the University of Chicago as an Assistant Professor of Economics (1956-1959), Associate Professor of Economics (1960-1964), and Professor of Economics (1964-1969). At Chicago he built upon his graduate studies and became a leader in the application of statistical methods to the analysis of economic problems and data. Zvi's thesis, Hybrid Corn: An Exploration in the Economics of Technological Change (1957), launched a new wave of interest in the study of economic incentives and technological change. His research of hybrid corn had a wide influence and led to further studies of technological diffusion by other economists.

In 1958, Zvi began his work on the accurate measurement of inflation by studying how quality improvements in automobiles are reflected in prices. Zvi isolated how much the rise in the price of a car was attributable to inflation alone. The hedonic price indexes he developed during his automobile research became a standard and a catalyst for research by other economists.

In 1965, Zvi was recognized for his significant contributions to the advancement of economic thought when he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given to the best economist under the age of 40.

Harvard University

Zvi joined the Harvard University faculty as a Professor of Economics in 1969. In the ensuing years he was appointed Professor of Political Economy (1969-1987), Chairman of the Department of Economics (1980-1983), Frank W. Taussig Research Professor (1983-1984), and Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics (1987-1999).

At Harvard University, Zvi's major fields of study included the diffusion of technological change in the economy, the role of education and its contribution to economic growth, methods for measuring the sources of economic growth, and the role of science in research and development. He was a central figure in identifying and measuring the benefits of research and development and spent his life attempting to improve the methods of productivity measurement. Moreover, Griliches played a key role in establishing Harvard University's prominence as a center of economic learning and in the training of a substantial number of well-known economists. His appointment helped reinvigorate the Harvard University economics department and helped it become the world's best by the end of the century.


Zvi Griliches married Diane (Asseo) Griliches on April 26, 1953. They had two children: Eve (1957) and Marc (1960).

Zvi Griliches died on November 4, 1999.


Zvi Griliches's work influenced several different fields of economics and effected the way government agencies operate and gather national statistics. In his later years, Zvi was routinely called upon to advise the federal government on economic policy. In 1996, he served on the Boskin Commission, studying the consumer price index in order to review any bias in the reporting of inflation. Considering econometrics as a tool, and not as an end in itself, Zvi was an acknowledged leader in the statistical analysis of economic data and he became devoted to improving the quality of economic measurement.

Among his many honors, Zvi was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1965), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1966), the National Academy of Sciences (1975), the American Agricultural Economics Association (1991) and was elected President of the American Economics Association in 1993. Zvi also received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew University in 1991. After his death in 1999, a Griliches prize in empirical economics was established by Harvard University and the University of Chicago in recognition of his outstanding work in economics. In 2000, moreover, a fellowship in Empirical Economics at the National Bureau of Economic Research was established in his name.

Zvi's influence extended beyond the boundaries of Harvard Yard, and he maintained a close relationship with economists in Israel and Russia. He served as a visiting professor at Hebrew University and Tel-Aviv University. Furthermore, he helped found the New School of Economics in Moscow which was established to teach market economics and econometrics to students in the former Soviet Union. Zvi also served as an advisor on numerous panels and boards for both private and public institutions and as a consultant for many organizations including the World Bank, the Brookings Institution, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the National Science Foundation.

Zvi Griliches, self-taught and penniless, came to the United States, not only to become one of the most notable economists in his field, but to be remembered by his students, colleagues, and research associates with admiration and grateful feelings.


  1. Chamberlain, Gary E., Elhannan Helpman, Dale W. Jorgenson, Ariel Pakes, and Andrei Shleifer. Memorial Minute: Zvi Griliches. Harvard University Gazette (February 27, 2003) : 16.
  2. Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Zvi Griliches's Contribution to the Economics of Technology and Growth. Economics of Innovation and New Technology 13 (June 2004) : 365-397.
  3. Fraumeni, Barbara M. Zvi Griliches and His Contributions to Economic Measurement. Survey of Current Business (January 2000) : 15-17.
  4. Griliches, Zvi. Interview by Gary E. Chamberlain, 23 February 1999, tape recording and transcript. Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, MA.
  5. Griliches, Zvi. Remembering. Mosaic: A Review of Jewish Thought and Culture13 (Fall 1992) : 50-55.
  6. Griliches, Zvi. Zvi Griliches (b. 1930). Chapter 8 in Exemplary Economists, I. Northampton, MA: Edward Elger Publishing, 2000.
  7. Krueger, Alan B. and Timothy Taylor. An Interview with Zvi Griliches. The Journal of Economic Perspectives 14, no. 2 (Spring 2000) : 171-189.
  8. Nerlove, Marc. Zvi Griliches, 1930-1999: A Critical Appreciation. The Economic Journal 111 (June 2001) : 422-448.


  1. Biographical Materials
  2. Correspondence
  3. Research Files
  4. Professional Societies and Associations
  5. Consulting Services
  6. Conferences, speaking engagements, and other travel
  7. Writings
  8. The Econometric Society
  9. Teaching and Academia
  10. Subject Files

Acquisition Information

  1. Accession number: 14159; 2000 June 6.
  2. Accession number: 14166; 2000 June 16.
  3. Accession number: 14295; 2001 April 5.
  4. Accession number: 14921; 2003 October 24.

Related Material

Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Zvi Griliches.

Records of the Department of Economics, 1900-1969. UAV 349.275

Inventory upate

This document last updated 2021 October 12.

Processing Note

This collection was processed November 2004 by Dominic P. Grandinetti.

Processing included the re-housing of materials in the appropriate containers, establishment of series and subseries hierarchy, and the creation of this finding aid. The archivist placed the documents into acid-free folders, re-housed the materials into archival document boxes, and examined the folder contents to establish the date of the material. In all respects, the archivist attempted to retain and preserve the original arrangement and existing relationships of the documents as established by Griliches.

Among the Griliches accessions was a compact disc. This disk contained writings, electronic mail, photographs, and word-processed letters. Some of the files were unreadable. Processing staff printed out readable files onto paper, compared them to material received in paper form, and interfiled them into the collection. The file name that Griliches assigned is recorded on the printouts. The compact disk is retained in the Archives' control file.

Details about the processing and arrangement of each series are noted below.

Griliches, Zvi, 1930- .Papers of Zvi Griliches : an inventory
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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