USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates

Posted on December 13, 2005  Comments (20)

How accurately the data reflects the situation is something that must always be considered: data is a proxy for something. All models are wrong, some are useful – George Box.

A very interesting report has been published by Duke’s Pratt Engineering School: Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate by: Dr. Gary Gereffi and Vivek Wadhwa – Primary Student Researchers: Ben Rissing, Kiran Kalakuntla, Soomi Cheong, Qi Weng, Nishanth Lingamneni. I strongly recommend reading this report. Report Appendix with data:

Typical articles have stated that in 2004 the United States graduated roughly 70,000 undergraduate engineers, while China graduated 600,000 and India 350,000.

The report puts the 2004 figures, based on their operational definition of a engineering degree at:

USA: 222,335
India: 215,000
China: 644,106

The fact that there are fewer equivalent degrees in India and China doesn’t amaze me. Tripling the degrees in America does surprise me. If I understand the report this is due to including IT and computer science degrees (that are included in China and India counts) and including subbaccalaureate degrees (also included by China and India). In practice, US data includes some IT and CS degrees as engineering and some not (depending on how the school classifies them I believe).

These massive numbers of Indian and Chinese engineering graduates include not only four-year degrees, but also three-year training programs and diploma holders. These numbers have been compared against the annual production of accredited four-year engineering degrees in the United States. In addition to the lack of nuanced analysis around the type of graduates (transactional or dynamic) and quality of degrees being awarded, these articles also tend not to ground the numbers in the larger demographics of each country.

These types of distinctions are exactly the type of additional information that can be very important to consider when drawing conclusions based on data. While agree that looking at the percentage of the population is worthwhile, I think the report may over emphasis this measure. If looking at how much engineering ability China and India are bringing online what is most interesting is the absolute measure of that capability. However, this is a minor point and overall this is a great report. I wrote about this some previously (Worldwide Science and Engineering Doctoral Degree Data and Engineering Education and Innovation). I wonder what the percentages are for countries like Korea, Singapore and some in Europe?

Today, almost one-third of the globe’s science and engineering researchers are employed by the United States. Thirty-five percent of science and engineering articles are published within the U.S. and the U.S. accounts for 40% of the globe’s research and development (R&D) expenditure.

An import figure and one that will be interesting to track going forward, my belief is it will have to go down (even if the totals increase in the USA they will not increase as fast as China and India and probably not as fast as the world overall – but that is merely speculation). And the report closes with:

The challenge for the United States over the next decade will be to retain its role as a global pacesetter in the education of engineering and scientific talent and thereby to sustain its legacy as a preeminent technological innovator.

Well put.

Links to stories on the report:

20 Responses to “USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Filling the Engineering Gap
    January 10th, 2006 @ 9:29 pm

    […] Filling the Engineering Gap by Vivek Wadhwa, an update on the previous post: USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates. In this article Vivek Wadhwa writes: So what should be done? Further research is needed on a subject of such critical national importance. The Duke study was a small step toward establishing certain baseline facts and reliable statistics. As Professor Ausubel notes, if a team of engineering students can accomplish so much within a semester, why not the experts and analysts? […]

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Phony Science Gap?
    February 22nd, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

    […] It is good to see more people using the data from the Duke study we have mentioned previously: USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates – Filling the Engineering Gap. However, I think he misses a big change. It seems to me that the absolute number of graduates each year is the bigger story than that the United States has not lost the percentage of population rate of science and engineering graduates yet. China significantly exceeds the US and that India is close to the US currently in science and engineering graduates. And the trend is dramatically in favor of those countries. […]

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Engineering Education Worldwide
    March 7th, 2006 @ 5:28 pm

    […] This article discusses the Duke study (USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates) proposing an adjustment to the numbers used for comparing engineering education results of the United States, China and India. Like Wadhwa, Johnson suggested that the recent emphasis on increasing the number of engineers in America should take a back seat to promoting quality. “The fact there may be X, Y or Z number of [science and engineering graduates] floating around, doesn’t necessarily speak to the question of does that represent the actual high level high skill innovative talent American industries are looking for,” he said. […]

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » America’s Technology Advantage Slipping
    May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:18 pm

    […] It is also interesting to note, this Business Week article uses the “China and India, the new global tech powerhouses, are fueled by 900,000 engineering graduates of all types each year, more than triple the number of U.S. grads.” stats even though this article specifically tracks a Duke team and Business Week published several articles on the Duke study, USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates, that refutes those numbers. […]

  5. Mexico Graduating Engineers
    May 19th, 2006 @ 11:22 am

    […] the number of engineering undergraduate students in Mexico surprises me; this is one more indication of how many people see the value of engineering education. […]

  6. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » House Testimony on Engineering Education
    May 24th, 2006 @ 8:48 am

    […] Vivek Wadhwa has continued the work published in the Duke study: Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate. In the testimony he provides an update on the data provided in the report. Contrary to the popular view that India and China have an abundance of engineers, recent studies show that both countries may actually face severe shortages of dynamic engineers. The vast majority of graduates from these counties have the qualities of transactional engineers. […]

  7. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Engineering Education: Can India overtake China?
    June 14th, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

    […] Once again they quote the 600,000; 400,000 and 70,000 figures which the Duke University study shows is misleading. Still the short article provides some interesting information. Also the comment section shows the Duke study is beginning to seep into the public consciousness. […]

  8. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Blog Archive » Engineering Education: China, India and the USA
    June 26th, 2006 @ 6:27 pm

    […] I just added a post, USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates, to our Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog on a new report from Duke concerning data on engineering degrees from China, India and the USA: Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate. I think it is a great report. If you have any interest in this topic I strongly recommend it. […]

  9. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Global Share of Engineering Work
    July 1st, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

    […] See: USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates Even if the U.S. has a smaller percentage of the world’s engineers, it will be able to compete because its engineers will be the managers of complex global interactions. In the final analysis, it’s the quality of engineer that counts, not the quantity. […]

  10. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Engineers in the Workplace
    July 16th, 2006 @ 11:37 pm

    So funding research that hires scientists and engineers, and provides many benefits to the economy, can make a great deal of sense. The belief in this is why so many countries are focusing on improving their science and engineering capabilities…

  11. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Promoting Science and Engineering
    August 13th, 2006 @ 8:23 pm

    […] Another article discussing the need to focus on science and engineering education in the USA and the United Kingdom. It is nice to see the Duke study has worked its way into most recent articles. Being in the field “teaches you to be flexible and ruthlessly creative,” says Pearson. Indeed, Richard K. Miller, president of Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, which graduated its first class in May, says it’s crucial to get students to think “outside the box” and work in teams. “Our future doesn’t depend on producing more engineers than China. [We] need more innovators,” he says. “Engineering is about invention.” […]

  12. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » The World’s Best Research Universities
    August 19th, 2006 @ 9:40 am

    highlights from the 2006 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide include…

  13. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Higher Education Worldwide
    September 4th, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

    The U.S. Edge In Education by Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University…

  14. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Economics - America and China
    November 25th, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

    the United States is not the only country that realizes it is a great things for your economy to have highly skilled people who can provide high value and receive high compensation. The benefits of highly skilled people to an economy is huge…

  15. Asia: Rising Stars of Science and Engineering
    January 28th, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

    […] “China is mobilising massive resources for innovation through ambitious long-term plans, funded by rapid economic growth. Beijing’s university district produces as many engineers as all of western Europe.” […]

  16. UsChinaBiz
    April 11th, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

    Right on – back when I was in school and shopping for a school to attend for my ROTC degree, I had to be in an “engineering degree”. I wasn’t the best at math but I did enjoy computers. However, most schools still had computer science outside the engineering department. I eventually found a school that did, but there are probably thousands of students that were responsible for building some of the most valuable web properties today that graduated from schoool without being labeled as official “engineers” – thanks for deconstructing the stats. As much as I rely on stats, I sure do hate ’em sometimes 🙂

  17. CuriousCat: Education, Entrepreneurship and Immigration
    June 13th, 2007 @ 8:44 am

    “52 percent of immigrant founders initially came to the United States primarily for higher education, 40 percent entered the country because of a job opportunity, 6 percent came for family reasons, and only 2 percent to start a business…”

  18. CuriousCat: Engineering - Economic Benefits
    July 10th, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    The most critical issue to remember from an economic perspective is having entrepreneurial engineers can drive economic growth and pave the way for many others to have great job and great investing returns in their company…

  19. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » International Engineering Education Data: USA, China, India
    June 2nd, 2008 @ 8:31 am

    The authors, and two others, have written a new report that provides some useful additions – Getting the Numbers Right: International Engineering Education in the United States, China, and India…

  20. The Trivialization of Higher Education « Luis Espinal's CS Voodoo Blog
    December 21st, 2010 @ 9:04 am

    […] [1] [2] Posted in: computer science, education, engineering, globalization ← On 4-Year College Education and Nonviable Fallacies LikeBe the first to like this post. Be the first to start a conversation […]

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