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Does Globalization of the Scientific/Engineering Workforce Threaten U.S. Economic Leadership?

In: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 6

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  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

This paper develops four propositions that show that changes in the global job market for science and engineering (S&E) workers are eroding US dominance in S&E, which diminishes comparative advantage in high tech production and creates problems for American industry and workers: (1) The U.S. share of the world's science and engineering graduates is declining rapidly as European and Asian universities, particularly from China, have increased S&E degrees while US degree production has stagnated. 2) The job market has worsened for young workers in S&E fields relative to many other high-level occupations, which discourages US students from going on in S&E, but which still has sufficient rewards to attract large immigrant flows, particularly from developing countries. 3) Populous low income countries such as China and India can compete with the US in high tech by having many S&E specialists although those workers are a small proportion of their work forces. This threatens to undo the "North-South" pattern of trade in which advanced countries dominate high tech while developing countries specialize in less skilled manufacturing. 4) Diminished comparative advantage in high-tech will create a long period of adjustment for US workers, of which the off-shoring of IT jobs to India, growth of high-tech production in China, and multinational R&D facilities in developing countries, are harbingers. To ease the adjustment to a less dominant position in science and engineering, the US will have to develop new labor market and R&D policies that build on existing strengths and develop new ways of benefitting from scientific and technological advances in other countries.
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Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman, 2006. "Does Globalization of the Scientific/Engineering Workforce Threaten U.S. Economic Leadership?," NBER Chapters,in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 6, pages 123-158 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0207
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    1. Alan L Porter & J David Roessner & Xiao-Yin Jin & Nils C Newman, 2002. "Measuring national ‘emerging technology’ capabilities," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(3), pages 189-200, June.
    2. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Innovation, Technology Transfer, and the World Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(2), pages 253-266, April.
    3. Richard B. Freeman, 1976. "A Cobweb Model of the Supply and Starting Salary of New Engineers," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 29(2), pages 236-248, January.
    4. Richard B. Freeman & Emily Jin & Chia-Yu Shen, 2004. "Where Do New US-Trained Science-Engineering PhDs come from?," NBER Working Papers 10554, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Michelle P. Connolly & Diego Valderrama, 2005. "North-South technological diffusion and dynamic gains from trade," Working Paper Series 2004-24, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    6. Coe, David T & Helpman, Elhanan & Hoffmaister, Alexander W, 1997. "North-South R&D Spillovers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(440), pages 134-149, January.
    7. David M. Blank & George J. Stigler, 1957. "The Demand and Supply of Scientific Personnel," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blan57-1.
    8. Donald R. Davis & David E. Weinstein, 2002. "Technological Superiority and the Losses from Migration," NBER Working Papers 8971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Brezis, Elise S & Krugman, Paul R & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1993. "Leapfrogging in International Competition: A Theory of Cycles in National Technological Leadership," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1211-1219, December.
    10. Zhou, Ping & Leydesdorff, Loet, 2006. "The emergence of China as a leading nation in science," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 83-104, February.
    11. Freeman, Richard B, 1975. "Supply and Salary Adjustments to the Changing Science Manpower Market: Physics, 1948-1973," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 27-39, March.
    12. Connolly, Michelle, 2003. "The dual nature of trade: measuring its impact on imitation and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 31-55, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G0 - Financial Economics - - General
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • F0 - International Economics - - General
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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