Nathan, Robert

1908 (Dayton (Ohio))
Historical Notes

Robert Roy Nathan studied economics at the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1931 and a master’s in 1933. He also studied law at Georgetown University, receiving an LL.B. in 1938. Robert Roy Nathan joined the Division of Economic Research in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce in June 1933. In this position he contributed to the development of the first official estimates of national income for the United States. In 1934, Nathan went to work at the Pennsylvania State Emergency Relief Board and he also served part-time as a consultant to the President’s Committee on Economic Security, which played a key role in formulating the Social Security system. In December 1934, Nathan returned to the Commerce Department as the first chief of the National Income Section, which had been set up within the Division of Economic Research. In June 1940, Nathan was asked to serve as associate director of research and statistics in the newly formed National Defense Advisory Commission. In January 1942, Nathan was appointed chairman of the planning committee of the War Production Board (WPB). In 1945, he became director of the Office of War Mobilisation and Reconversion. Nathan is best known for the use he made at that time of estimates of gross national product. After the war, he started Robert R. Nathan Associates, an economic consulting firm. In 1978, he stepped down as president of the firm, but he remained as consultant and board chairman until a few weeks before his death in September 2001.