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.
Michael S. Teitelbaum is a Wertheim Fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and senior advisor to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York. Until 2011 he was vice president of the Sloan Foundation. His previous books include The Global Spread of Fertility Decline, A Question of Numbers, The Fear of Population Decline, and The British Fertility Decline.
"[A]n outstanding and important new book. . . . Falling Behind? . . . brings desperately needed clarity and context to a crucial issue: the nation's much-ballyhooed but essentially fictitious 'shortage' of scientific talent. Drawing on Teitelbaum's decades of experience with labor and migration issues . . . the book applies subtle analysis and encyclopedic knowledge to the task of understanding the dynamics of the scientific labor market. . . . Every politician, policymaker, advocate, and ordinary citizen who wants to understand the reality and the genuine challenges currently facing American research and researchers . . . should read and absorb what Teitelbaum terms as his book's 'core findings'. . . . Fascinating and revealing nuggets stud the book, displaying the depth and originality of Teitelbaum's research. . . . A review of this length can offer only a taste of the insight, information, and astute judgment that Teitelbaum brings to bear on the history, structure, prospects, and very real current problems of the U.S. scientific enterprise. . . . [T]he book's precise exposition and granular detail make it valuable even for those who already are well versed. For the much larger number of people who are concerned about American science but unfamiliar with the dynamics and history of the scientific labor market, this book will be revelatory . . . Teitelbaum's book should transform this important national conversation."--Beryl Lieff Benderly, Science Careers
"Detailing the varied interests driving science and engineering workforce policy, Falling Behind? demonstrates that unfortunately, scores of high-skilled workers have been on the losing end of failed education and immigration agendas. This book provides critical analysis and an opportunity to change the dialogue for these issues."--Paul E. Almeida, DPE AFL-CIO
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 Recent Alarms 7
Chapter 2 No Shortage of Shortages 25
Chapter 3 Beliefs, Interests, Effects 70
Chapter 4 The Influence of Employer and Other Interest Groups 87
Chapter 5 What Is the Market Really Like? Supply, Demand, Shortage, Surplus--and Disequilibria 118
Chapter 6 The Distinctive U.S. Academic Production Process 155
Chapter 7 International Comparisons: Glass Half-Full, Glass Half-Empty? 172
Chapter 8 Making Things Work Better 189
Appendix A Controversy about the Meaning of Sputnik 217
Appendix B Evolution of the National Institutes of Health 219
Appendix C "A Nation at Risk" and the Sandia Critique 221