Panel Paper: Using Multistate Life Table Models to Assess Future Growth of the Academic Biomedical Workforce

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 9:45 AM
Georgetown II (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Marlene Lee, Population Reference Bureau
Background: Increasing diversity in the U.S. population challenges national and local governments on many fronts that impact the U.S. economy in the short-term and the long-term. The impact of growing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. population poses an immediate challenge in the education system and a longer-term challenge to economic growth. Optimizing the number of individuals in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is generally considered to be of high importance to economic growth, particularly in high-wage countries competing in the global knowledge economy.

The academic biomedical workforce is a key component of the STEM workforce because these individuals both advance basic science that may have commercial and public health applications and because they train future scientists. Given past and current trends in doctoral training, increases in the proportion of underrepresented minorities in the population--particularly the college-age population--may pose an additional challenge to maintaining an optimal size academic biomedical workforce. The multidimensional nature of the entries and exits that contribute to the size of the academic biomedical workforce make it difficult to identify the policy leverage points as the composition of the U.S. population changes. We use estimates of age-gender-race specific transition rates and multistate life table models to examine how targeting new entrants and/or retention of specific population groups might affect the future size of the academic biomedical workforce. 

Objective: To develop an empirically-based model of the biomedical workforce with which to simulate the effect of policies that influence transitions between academic biomedical work and other employment states.

 Methods: We use data from the Survey of Doctoral Recipient, 1993 to 2008, to obtain empirical examples of employment trajectories for doctoral graduates. We compare several approaches to modeling life table statistics, including simulation techniques, and use these statistics to compute how the size of the biomedical workforce changes as the number of doctoral graduates responds to shifts in the racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. population.

Preliminary Findings: Preliminary decomposition of aggregate biomedical employment by race/ethnic-gender-citizenship groups shows that growth in female doctoral graduates plays a substantial role in growth of the academic biomedical employment in the 1990s as growth in female employment played a role in expansion of the U.S. labor force in the 1970s and 1980s. Given the number of doctoral graduates for certain racial and ethnic groups, even with simulation techniques, the separate effect of individual racial and ethnic minority groups among those underrepresented in the biomedical fields cannot be teased out with existing data, but modeling for underrepresented minorities is possible. Age-specific transition patterns in and out of academic biomedical employment for men and women with doctoral degrees are consistent with previous worklife models and with studies of the effects of gender roles on early career paths.