Is the U.S. Losing its Preeminence in Higher Education?

55 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009 Last revised: 11 Nov 2013

See all articles by James D. Adams

James D. Adams

Dept of Economics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2009


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.

Suggested Citation

Adams, James D., Is the U.S. Losing its Preeminence in Higher Education? (August 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15233. Available at SSRN:

James D. Adams (Contact Author)

Dept of Economics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ( email )

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