Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?
AbstractConventional wisdom holds that the social rate of return to R&D significantly exceeds the private rate of return and, therefore, R&D should be subsidized. In the U.S., the government has directly funded a large fraction of total R&D spending. This paper shows that there is a serious problem with such government efforts to increase inventive activity. The majority of R&D spending is actually just salary payments for R&D workers. Their labor supply, however, is quite inelastic so when the government funds R&D, a significant fraction of the increased spending goes directly into higher wages. Using CPS data on wages of scientific personnel, this paper shows that government R&D spending raises wages significantly, particularly for scientists related to defense such as physicists and aeronautical engineers. Because of the higher wages, conventional estimates of the effectiveness of R&D policy may be 30 to 50% too high. The results also imply that by altering the wages of scientists and engineers even for firms not receiving federal support, government funding directly crowds out private inventive activity.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.
Volume (Year): 88 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Other versions of this item:
- Austan Goolsbee, 1998. "Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?," NBER Working Papers 6532, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- O32 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
- H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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