These concerns are by no means a recent phenomenon. Examining historical precedent, Michael Teitelbaum highlights five episodes of alarm about "falling behind" that go back nearly seventy years to the end of World War II. In each of these episodes the political system responded by rapidly expanding the supply of scientists and engineers, but only a few years later political enthusiasm or economic demand waned. Booms turned to busts, leaving many of those who had been encouraged to pursue science and engineering careers facing disheartening career prospects. Their experiences deterred younger and equally talented students from following in their footsteps—thereby sowing the seeds of the next cycle of alarm, boom, and bust.
Falling Behind? examines these repeated cycles up to the present, shedding new light on the adequacy of the science and engineering workforce for the current and future needs of the United States.