U.S. Scientist and Engineer Supply as Strong as Ever: A New Study Finds
There is widespread fear that US is not preparing enough talents in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) while its global competitors, such as China and India, are producing a lot more engineers and scientists. And this fear has been used to fuel investment in STEM education in the United States. For example, a report produced by the National Academies of Sciences at the request of Congress in 2005 and published in 2007 (with a revision in 2008) says that “Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China. In India, the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000.” The report, entitled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,” thus recommends the federal government invest more in STEM education in schools and universities, among other things.
I have argued that this fear is based on misunderstanding and misinterpretation of data in my book. And here is more evidence.
Last week, a comprehensive study based on analysis of major longitudinal datasets found “U.S. colleges and universities are graduating as many scientists and engineers as ever before.” The study was conducted by a group of researchers at Georgetown University, Rutgers University, and the Urban Institute. “Our findings indicate that STEM retention along the pipeline shows strong and even increasing rates of retention from the 1970s to the late 1990s,” says the report. However, not all STEM graduates enter the STEM field. They are attracted to other areas.
“Over the past decade, U.S. colleges and universities graduated roughly three times more scientists and engineers than were employed in the growing science and engineering workforce,” one of the study’s co-author Lindsay Lowell was quoted in the study’s press release, “At the same time, more of the very best students are attracted to non-science occupations, such as finance. Even so, there is no evidence of a long-term decline in the proportion of American students with the relevant training and qualifications to pursue STEM jobs.”
Earlier studies by the same authors also “found that the U.S. education system produces large numbers of top-performing science and math students.”