Economists Investigate The Implications of Aging American Scientific Workforce

Aging Scientific Workforce Raises Concerns

A new study revealed that the science and engineering workforce in the United States is aging rapidly and projected to get older in coming years.

This key result was confirmed by David Blau, an economist, and the co-author of the study.

Blau, professor of economics at Ohio State, said, “The aging of the scientific workforce is not over – not by a long shot.”

The study found that the average age of employed scientists increased from 45.1 to 48.6 between 1993 and 2010. This is considered faster than the workforce as a whole.

The researchers estimate that the average age of U.S. scientists will increase by another 2.3 years in the near future.

The study was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A microbiologist working in a lab.
A microbiologist working in a lab.

So What If American Scientists Are Getting Old?

With the prevailing status of the aging scientific workforce in the United States, researchers raised concerns on the productivity of the older scientists whether their age will affect their efficacy in their respective fields. But these notions are yet to be proven and answers will prevail later, as the study is still ongoing.

However, co-author Bruce Weinberg, another professor of economics at Ohio State, thought otherwise on the notion that scientists will become less creative and less inventive as they age.

Weinberg said, “Many of the scientific fields people think about are not typical and over time people are starting to be more productive at later ages.”

That is why the ongoing project will shed more light on this issue, the researchers said.

The Study and Relevant Results

The researchers gathered data from the 1993 to 2010 National Science Foundation Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The researchers then analyzed the data based on the employment information taken from 73,000 scientists aged 76 or younger.

Here are the relevant results:

The researchers found that a majority of the recent aging of the scientific workforce can be attributed to the large number of people in the baby boom generation getting older.

Aside from that, scientists have worked longer since mandatory retirement of university professors ended by law in 1994. This means scientists who worked prior to 1994 would have been forced to retire are now working to older and older ages.

Another interesting finding revealed that the average age of scientists will go up an additional 2.3 years in the future, all else being the same.

Blau explained, “Even after the baby boom generation is long gone from the workforce, the scientific workforce will still continue to get older. Scientists are retiring later and that will continue to have an effect.”

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.