Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?
Conventional 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.
|Date of creation:||Apr 1998|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as American Economic Review, Vol. 88, no. 2 (May 1998): 298-302.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
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.:
- Romer, Paul M, 1990.
"Endogenous Technological Change,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
- James M. Poterba, 1983.
"Tax Subsidies to Owner-occupied Housing: An Asset Market Approach,"
339, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
- Poterba, James M, 1984. "Tax Subsidies to Owner-occupied Housing: An Asset-Market Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(4), pages 729-52, November.
- Jaewoo Ryoo & Sherwin Rosen, 1992.
"The Market for Engineers,"
University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State
83, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6532. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.