Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and Engineering Grads

Everyone "just KNOWS" the numbers:

"Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions ofhigher education in China," the report stated. "In India the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000." To dramatize the seriousness of the issue, the academies titled the 543-page report"Rising Above the Gathering Storm," an allusion to Winston Churchill's book "The Gathering Storm," about events leading up toWorld War II.

That's what the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy, a joint group from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine (which, with the NationalResearch Council, are collectively known as the National Academies) [said.]

Naturally, given this lofty pedigree, the statistics then materialized in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune and on many Web sites. While Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman did not use these specific numbers in his 2005 bestseller, "The World Is Flat," he did write that Asian universities currently produce eight times as many bachelor's degrees in engineering as U.S. universities do.

Well, after a LOT of "further review" by the WSJ, the Christian Science Monitor, and others, it turns out that the numbers are simply false.

After an exhaustive study, researchers at Duke University also pummeled the numbers. In a December 2005 analysis, "Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate," they reported that the United States annually produces 137,437 engineers with at least a bachelor's degree while India produces 112,000 and China 351,537. That's more U.S. degrees per million residents than in either other nation.

(Gerald Bracey via Norm Matloff)

No comments: