Zvi Griliches was one of the leading econometricians of his generation. His early work involved empirical analyses of the sources of productivity growth in twentieth-century US agriculture, including his dissertation on the diffusion of hybrid corn and his analysis of the long-run growth in fertilizer use by US farmers. In this research Griliches developed theoretical explanations of these phenomena in the form of narratives of rational, profit-seeking people responding to changing circumstances and novel information, and he used these narratives to inform his decisions about what statistical techniques to employ and how to implement them. Narratives served the same purposes for Griliches that mathematical models were coming to serve in the work of his contemporaries, but they made more sense for Griliches, given his belief that he was analyzing transitions between economic equilibria, a process for which economists had not developed useful mathematical models.

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