Milton Gilbert

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Milton Gilbert (1909 – September 28 or 29, 1979) was an economist and finance expert who worked at the United States Department of Commerce, Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) and Bank for International Settlements.[1][2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Gilbert was born in Philadelphia in 1909.[1][2][3] He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree at Temple University and in 1937 received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.[2][3] Gilbert studied under Simon Kuznets and was influenced heavily by Kuznets' approach, though the two would have disagreements in the 1940s.[4]:93


United States Department of Commerce (1941–1950)[edit]

From 1941 to 1950, Gilbert was chief of the National Income Division of the United States Department of Commerce.[2][3] While there, he was part of the foundational work done by the United States to develop a system of national income accounting and GDP calculation. In that capacity, he had disagreements with economist Simon Kuznets (the founder of national income accounting in the United States). Gilbert and his colleagues were of the view that these calculations should be done to serve United States government fiscal policy, and that government spending should be included in the GDP calculations.[5]:27–28 Gilbert's view on the inclusion of government in GDP was heavily influenced by his cousin, the Keynesian economist and Harvard teacher Richard Gilbert, the director of the Defense Economic Section of the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply (OPACS),[4]:93 where he saw firsthand the effect of Kuznets' GDP definition: a request for additional government spending by OPACS in 1941 was denied on the grounds that it would not increase national income.[5]:27[4]:93

In a meeting in September 1944 between the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, a consensus is reached around the approach preferred by Gilbert and other government officials.[6]:33–35[4]:109

While at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Gilbert co-edited a volume of Studies in Income and Wealth (a book series) with Dorothy Brady and Kuznets. The volume was published in 1946.[7]

Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (Paris, France) (1951–1960)[edit]

From 1951 to 1960, Gilbert worked as an economist at the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) in Paris,[2][3] which would be renamed in 1961 to OECD (its present name). The OEEC had, since the start of the Marshall Plan in 1946, been tasked with monitoring spending and economic growth in Europe.[6]:35 While there, he collaborated with Irving B. Kravis on An International Comparison of National Products and the Purchasing Power of Currencies (1954), a pioneering work on international comparison of production and purchasing power.[8][9][3][10]:177–178 Gilbert co-authored further work along the same lines published in 1958.[9] This work was an early precursor to the International Comparison Program that would be created in 1968 at the University of Pennsylvania[9][11][5]:65 which in turn would lead to Real GDP Per Capita for More Than One Hundred Countries by Kravis, Alan W. Heston and Robert Summers in 1978, the first version of the Penn World Table.[12][10]:178

Bank for International Settlements (Basel, Switzerland) (1960–1975)[edit]

Gilbert served as Economic Adviser for the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland[2] from November 1, 1960, to December 31, 1975.[1] He then retired.[3]

While at BIS, Gilbert became a recognized authority of gold, and wrote The Gold Dollar System -- Conditions of Equilibrium and the Price of Gold (Essays in International Finance, No. 70), which was published by Princeton University Press in October 1968.[3][13] The book is available as a PDF from the website of Princeton University's International Economics Section.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Gilbert lived in Basel, Switzerland, after his retirement in 1975. He was planning his move back to the United States. While making arrangements, he died of a heart attack at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. on September 28 or 29, 1979.[2][3]

Gilbert was survived by his wife Ruth, who was from Basel, three children, Arnold and Sheryl of Washington and Carla of San Diego, California, a brother Mort of San Diego, California, and one grandchild.[3][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Biographical note: Milton Gilbert (1909-79), former Economic Adviser". Bank for International Settlements. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Clark, Alfred E. (October 4, 1979). "MILTON GILBERT, 70; WAS FINANCE EXPERT". New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Milton Gilbert, Economist, Authority on Gold". Washington Post. September 30, 1979. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Lepenies, Philip. The Power of a Single Number: A Political History of GDP. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Coyle, Diane. "GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History". Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  6. ^ a b The Great Invention: The Story of GDP and the Making and Unmaking of the Modern World. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  7. ^ Studies in Income and Wealth. January 1, 1946. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  8. ^ An international comparison of national products and the purchasing power of currencies. Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Rao, Prasada (January 30, 2001). "Integration of CPI and PPP: Methodological Issues, Feasibility and Recommendations" (PDF). OECD. Retrieved November 14, 2017. Basic work on the need for purchasing power parities as currency conversion factors began with the seminal work of Gilbert and Kravis for the OEEC in 1954 and the subsequent work of Gilbert and Associates (1958). These two studies demonstrate the fact that there can be a considerable gap between the official exchange rates and purchasing power parities, and therefore the need for research on the computation of PPPs for different currencies. This has led to the eventual establishment of the International Comparison Project (ICP) at the University of Pennsylvania by Kravis, Heston, Summers and Kenessey. The work by Kravis et al. (1975 and 1978) was instrumental in establishing the procedures and guidelines for undertaking international comparisons. The report of Kravis, Heston and Summers (1982) on Phase III of the ICP, may be considered as a definitive account of the standard procedures of the ICP. The ICP had been upgraded subsequently from the status of a project to a program due to the increased coverage of more than 65 countries in Phase IV. The publication of the Handbook of the International Comparison Programme (UN, 1992), is another major source for the procedures recommended for use in international comparisons. There are several OECD publications, all with the title "Purchasing Power Parities and Real Expenditures" (OECD 1987, 1996 and 1999), that deal with procedures underlying PPP computation. Similar publications are regularly published by Eurostat.
  10. ^ a b Klein, Lawrence (Summer 1993). "Irving B. Kravis: Memoir of a Distinguished Fellow". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 7 (3). Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  11. ^ "International Comparison Program - History". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  12. ^ Johnson, Simon; Subramanian, Arvind; Larson, Will; Papageorgiou, Chris (December 7, 2009). "Is newer better? The Penn World Table growth estimates". VOX, CEPR's Policy Portal. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Gilbert, Milton (October 1, 1968). "The Gold Dollar System -- Conditions of Equilibrium and the Price of Gold (PDF)" (PDF). Retrieved October 19, 2017.