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Falling Behind?

Falling Behind?: Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent

Michael S. Teitelbaum
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Falling Behind?
    Book Description:

    Is the United States falling behind in the global race for scientific and engineering talent? Are U.S. employers facing shortages of the skilled workers that they need to compete in a globalized world? Such claims from some employers and educators have been widely embraced by mainstream media and political leaders, and have figured prominently in recent policy debates about education, federal expenditures, tax policy, and immigration.Falling Behind?offers careful examinations of the existing evidence and of its use by those involved in these debates.

    These concerns are by no means a recent phenomenon. Examining historical precedent, Michael Teitelbaum highlights five episodes of alarm about "falling behind" that go back nearly seventy years to the end of World War II. In each of these episodes the political system responded by rapidly expanding the supply of scientists and engineers, but only a few years later political enthusiasm or economic demand waned. Booms turned to busts, leaving many of those who had been encouraged to pursue science and engineering careers facing disheartening career prospects. Their experiences deterred younger and equally talented students from following in their footsteps-thereby sowing the seeds of the next cycle of alarm, boom, and bust.

    Falling Behind?examines these repeated cycles up to the present, shedding new light on the adequacy of the science and engineering workforce for the current and future needs of the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5014-3
    Subjects: Education, Technology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In this increasingly globalized world, respected and influential voices warn urgently that the United States isfalling behindin a global “race for talent” that will determine the country’s future prosperity, power, and security. Expressions of such concerns have become common, even conventional, and are embraced with little question by many who have leadership roles in politics, business, media, and education. The gist of this perspective and its key assumptions might be fairly summarized as follows:

    The “second wave” of globalization now under way differs significantly from the “first wave” of about a century ago.¹ Now a nation’s economic prosperity...

  2. CHAPTER 1 Recent Alarms
    (pp. 7-24)

    Three highly influential reports, all released within a five-month period in 2005 and all guided by prominent corporate leaders, have dominated the past years of discussions about whether the United States is falling behind in terms of its science and engineering workforce. These three followed different styles but had much in common, and for good reason, as we shall see.

    The first report, entitledInnovate America, was published in May 2005 as a product of the “National Innovation Initiative” of the Council on Competitiveness; it addressed a very broad range of issues it considered central to innovation. The second and...

  3. CHAPTER 2 No Shortage of Shortages
    (pp. 25-69)

    As noted in chapter 1, the three politically influential Washington reports released in 2005,Innovate America,Tapping America’s Potential, andRising Above the Gathering Storm, were by no means unique. To the contrary, they represent twenty-first-century renewals of fears expressed repeatedly during the second half of the twentieth century—hardy Washington perennials that have waxed and waned during nearly every decade since World War II. Indeed it is fair to say that many of the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the current U.S. science and engineering workforce, and of the higher education and research systems that are so central to...

  4. CHAPTER 3 Beliefs, Interests, Effects
    (pp. 70-86)

    How might we explain the repetitive cycles—over more than a half-century now—ofalarm/boom/bustdescribed in the preceding chapters?

    In principle, the alarms that have initiated these cycles could have emerged on their own, based upon a broad-based national consensus reflecting widely shared concern about deterioration in the power, influence, and prosperity of the United States. In reality, however, such concerns often have been stimulated or encouraged by individuals and groups with strong interests at play, and especially so since the end of the Cold War. Who are these interested individuals and groups? What arguments do they put forth...

  5. CHAPTER 4 The Influence of Employer and Other Interest Groups
    (pp. 87-117)

    As discussed in chapter 2, the several rounds of alarms about insufficiency of the U.S. STEM workforce were dominated by the national security concerns of the Cold War, and led to a variety of actions by government to educate more U.S. scientists and engineers. Since the Cold War ended around 1990, similar alarms have focused more on the economic significance of the STEM workforce and have often been led by employers seeking to recruit more foreign scientists and engineers, although usually conjoined with parallel calls for improved education in the United States.

    The strategy of expanding international recruitment that has...

  6. CHAPTER 5 What Is the Market Really Like? Supply, Demand, Shortage, Surplus–and Disequilibria
    (pp. 118-154)

    Much of the debate about the adequacy of the U.S. science and engineering workforce is dominated by contesting claims of “shortages” or “surpluses.” What do these terms actually mean? How are they used by advocates and by others in politics and the press? How would an objective observer go about assessing such dueling claims?

    Such questions lead immediately to a surprising reality: even some of the most basic questions about labor markets in science and engineering have multiple, and quite different, answers. Among the questions producing conflicting answers are the following, many of which one might think could be answered...

  7. CHAPTER 6 The Distinctive U.S. Academic Production Process
    (pp. 155-171)

    The U.S. academic system is distinctive, even unique, in the ways that it recruits, finances, and produces newly minted scientists and engineers. In most other countries, scientists and engineers receive their education in a limited number of universities, polytechnics, and other postsecondary institutions. There are fewer than two hundred degree-granting institutions in such major advanced countries as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Canada.² Nearly all of these institutions receive substantial direct financial support for their core educational activities from national, provincial, and sometimes local governments. This means that governments can play an important direct role in deciding upon the...

  8. CHAPTER 7 International Comparisons: Glass Half-Full, Glass Half-Empty?
    (pp. 172-188)

    Over the past two to three decades important shifts have taken place in international comparisons and “rankings” of countries concerning their research and development (R&D) in science and engineering. The same can be said for international comparisons of the effectiveness of science and mathematics education at primary, secondary, and higher levels.

    The dominant position of the United States during the decades after World War II is apparent in standard indicators of such comparisons such as the volume of published scientific articles, numbers of patents issued, and production of STEM graduate degrees awarded. As noted earlier, of course, this postwar dominance...

  9. CHAPTER 8 Making Things Work Better
    (pp. 189-216)

    There is a compelling case for public support of science and engineering. This is especially so for basic scientific research, which is not only critical to the national interest and future well-being, but also produces what are called “public goods” that are unlikely to receive much support from nongovernmental sources.

    Apublic goodsuch as scientific knowledge has two key properties that are obvious once stated: First, its consumption by one person does not reduce its availability for consumption by any other person (economists call this characteristic “non-rivalrous”). Second, scientific knowledge cannot easily be restricted to those who pay for...

  10. APPENDIX A Controversy about the Meaning of Sputnik
    (pp. 217-218)
  11. APPENDIX B Evolution of the National Institutes of Health
    (pp. 219-220)
  12. APPENDIX C “A Nation at Risk” and the Sandia Critique
    (pp. 221-224)