Russian-born but American-educated, Simon Kuznets earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1926 and began an association with the National Bureau of Economic Research that spanned a half century. Kuznets developed and refined most measurements that underpin National Income accounting. Although the concept of National Income could be traced to François Quesnay, an eighteenth-century Frenchman, consistent aggregate measures of most aspects of economic life remained either crude or nonexistent prior to Kuznets' work.
Kuznets pioneered techniques to sum expenditures by different classes of purchases over different classes of goods. Thus, he provided systematic foundations for statistical studies of the relationships among income, consumption, and investment, and well deserved the title, "Father of National Income Accounting." Without his work, quantitative evaluation of the Keynesian revolution in economic thought would have been impossible. This realization prompted one economist to declare that "we live in the age of Keynes and Kuznets." For his monumental achievements in empirical economics, Kuznets won a Nobel Prize in 1971.
His almost single-handed construction of the National Income accounts made Kuznets aware of GDP's deficiencies as a measure of well-being. Recognizing that GDP ignores working conditions (e.g., stress and strain) and most non-market activities, Kuznets rejected reliance on National Income data as sole indicators of economic performance. Nevertheless, GDP is generally accepted today by economists, businesspeople, and politicians as the best barometer available for assessing a country's economic performance and growth.