Tuesday, June 14, 2005

US High-Tech Economy Slipping

Here are some specific data on US high-tech competitiveness from Physics Today. (See related post here.)

* Undergraduate science and engineering degrees are being awarded in the US at a lower rate than in other countries. The ratio of college undergraduate degrees in the natural sciences is only 5.7 per 100 college students in the US, while Finland, France, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK award between 8 and 13 degrees per 100 students. In Asia, Japan awards 8 per 100, and Taiwan and South Korea each award about 11 per 100.
* The US has a smaller share of the worldwide total of science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded each year than either Asia or Europe. In 2000, about 89 000 of the 114 000 doctoral degrees given in science and engineering were earned outside the US.

* From 1994 to 1998, the number of Chinese, South Korean, and Taiwanese students who chose to pursue PhDs in their own countries nearly doubled. By contrast, over that same period, the number of students from those countries pursuing PhDs at US universities dropped 19%, from 4982 to 4029.
* Since 1980, the number of science and engineering positions in the US has grown at almost five times the rate of the US civilian workforce as a whole.

Knowledge creation
* The US share of science and engineering papers worldwide declined from 38% in 1988 to 31% in 2001. Europe and Asia are responsible for the bulk of the growth in scientific papers in recent years.
* From 1988 to 2001, the US increased its number of published science and engineering articles by only 13%, while Western Europe increased its article output by 59%, Japan by 67%, and East Asia by 492%. Though both Japan and East Asia started from a far smaller base in 1988 and still do not publish as many articles as the US, their dramatic growth rates are striking.

R&D investment
* From 1995 through 2001, China, South Korea, and Taiwan collectively increased their gross R&D investments by about 140%, while the US increased its by 34%.
* US federal funding of basic research in engineering and physical sciences has experienced little to no growth over the last 30 years. As a percentage of gross domestic product, funding for physical sciences has been in a 30-year decline.

High-technology economy
* From 1980 to 2001, the US share of worldwide high-tech exports fell from 31% to 18%. At the same time, the global share for China, South Korea, and other emerging Asian economies increased from 7% to 25%.
* During the 1990s, the US maintained a trade surplus for high-tech products even as the trade balance for other goods plummeted. But since 2001, even the trade balance for high-tech goods has fallen into deficit.

The benchmarks note that even in nanotechnology, a heavily supported US research priority, Japan and China may have already surpassed the US. While the US is "supplying 25% of the global federal funding for nanotechnology," the benchmarks say, "Japan makes certain that its national nanotechnology initiative meets or exceeds the funding levels approved in the US. The European community is doing the same."


Anonymous said...

I'm not worried. The future is in real estate, and we've got some of the best realtors in the world.

Steve Hsu said...

You're joking, but the scary fact is that something like 40% of the new jobs created in this recovery are housing or real estate related!

When the bubble bursts there are going to be serious consequences...

Calculated Risk said...

Steve, interesting and frightening article. I share your concern about the housing centric nature of the US economy - and what makes it even more worrisome is that many of these housing related jobs pay well (Constrution, RE agents, mortgage brokers) but require little education. When these people start losing their jobs, they will have a difficult time finding new employment at anywhere near thier current level of compensation.

Best Regards!

Steve Hsu said...


Thanks for your comment.

If you hadn't noticed I have been following your lead in modifying the design of my blog :-)

For example, I learned how to use "blockquote" from you!

Calculated Risk said...

Steve, Cool. Your UofO colleague Dr. Thoma has helped me with my format (although I've added a few things like the blockquotes):

If you want to get rid of the blogger stuff at the top, just replace:




* = less than and greater than.

Best Regards!

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