Science and Job Creation: The Human Genome Project

In total, the Human Genome Project (‘HGP’) cost $3.8 billion. Sounds expensive until we realize that it ultimately led to $796 billion of economic impact(pdf here. Here’s the total effect from 1988 to 2010:


Direct effects are the jobs and economic activity created by the spending itself (e.g., employed lab techs). Indirect effects are the jobs and economic activity resulting from external purchases and so on (e.g., buying lab supplies and reagents). Induced effects is the effect on the overall economy (all of those scientists have to spend their paychecks). Note the incredible multiplier effects, which are far greater than defense spending (for instance). Also note that the total federal tax revenue generated by the HGP is slightly greater than the cost of the program, so this was a revenue-neutral project*. Here’s what happened during the project (1988-2003):


And here’s how things went in the human genomics biz after the HGP formally ended:


I won’t pretend that all NIH funding will be this spectacular in its effects, but the attempts to cut NIH funding are pennywise and pound foolish (actually, they’re fucking stupid no matter at any scale).

Austerity and fiscal responsibility rock. Or not.

*As I’ve noted many times, the U.S. federal government is an issuer of currency which means it doesn’t need to worry about raising enough revenue to meet expenses (it can simply credit accounts if needs be). This is the advantage of a fiat currency (sure, you can have inflation or resource misallocation with deficit spending but with greater than nine percent strict unemployment, we have enough idle people and stagnant wages to not worry about either problem).

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