Is the U.S. Losing Its Preeminence in Higher Education?
The expansion of U.S. universities after World War II gained from the arrival of immigrant scientists and graduate students, the broadening of access to universities, and the development of military research and high technology industry. Since the 1980s, however, growth of scientific research in Europe and East Asia has exceeded that of the U.S., suggesting convergence in world science and engineering and a falling U.S. share. But the slowdown of U.S. publication rates in the late 1990s is a different matter, in that the rise of science elsewhere does not imply a U.S. slowdown in any obvious sense. Using a panel of U.S. universities, fields and years, evidence is found of a slowdown in the growth of resources. In turn, this has caused a deceleration in the growth of research output in public universities and university-fields falling into the middle 40 percent and bottom 40 percent of their disciplines. These developments can be traced to slower growth in tuition and state appropriations in public universities compared to revenue growth, including from endowment, in private universities.
The Andrew W. Mellon and Alfred P. Sloan Foundations supported the data collection underlying this project. I thank Charles Clotfelter, Charles Phelps, two readers, and conference participants for comments. The staff of Folsom Library, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, provided valuable assistance in locating the historical data discussed in this paper. Of course, I am responsible for any remaining errors. This paper was presented at the NBER Conference on American Universities in a Global Market held in Woodstock, Vermont, October 2-4, 2008. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.