NIH And Coal Mining

Il Trumpe has made bringing back coal mining jobs, no matter how unrealistic that would be, a key component of his economic plan (such as it is…). After last week’s ‘budget’ release, which proposed an NIH funding cut of twenty percent, I thought it would be worth comparing the number of coal mining jobs to the number of jobs created by NIH. Let’s look at coal mining first.

As of February 2017, 50,000 people are employed in coal mining.

Finding direct employment numbers due to NIH funding is significantly harder. Most reports put the NIH campus(es) workforce at 20,000. But then there’s the over $22 billion spent extramurally (i.e., research grants and contracts), most of which any principal investigator (‘PI’) will tell you is spent on salaries–that is, jobs. Unfortunately, if NIH releases jobs numbers from grant spending (or ‘FTEs’, full-time equivalents), I can’t find it. Nonetheless, I think we can make a pretty good estimate, so let’s do this.

In 2015, $22.8 billion of NIH extramural spending was estimated to result in 352,000 jobs and $60.1 billion of total economic activity. A key thing to note is that this jobs estimate includes indirect activity, such as purchases for grant activities as well as employees spending their money. So I’m going to make my own estimate. Before I do that, I realize the RIMS II I-O model is very complex, but as we’ll see, my estimate jibes with the realities of grant budgets.

Simply put, I’ll use the ratio of NIH spending to economic output to determine how many ‘direct’ jobs are created, which yields around 134,000 jobs. Put another way, grants totaling $1 million–essentially 3 ‘bread and butter’ R01 grants–yield slightly less than six jobs (5.85 if you want to be precise). I realize not all extramural spending includes salaries, though other grants are almost exclusively salaries (e.g., training grants). This seems to pass the smell test, so I’m sticking with the 134,000 jobs number.

If we add the 20,000 NIH campus jobs, we’re up to 155,000 jobs.

If a twenty percent funding cut means an equivalent loss of jobs, that’s 31,000 jobs–the direct NIH job losses could be equal to sixty percent of the entire coal mining workforce. For that matter, the NIH campus alone employs forty percent of the coal mining workforce.

I’ll leave it up to others to run the numbers for other science funders.

This seems relevant.

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2 Responses to NIH And Coal Mining

  1. Tom_b says:

    Yea, but you are forgetting that in Republican magical thinking government jobs (other than their own jobs or jobs involving shooting darker skinned people) don’t actually count, or somehow count as a negative.

    And some jobs, I guess are just more “Real American” to Republicans. Juan Cole noted recently wind jobs actually exceed coal jobs already and that sector is growing. Sadly, the Koch overlords aren’t smart enough to ditch coal and modernize; they’d rather whine and dine their pet Congessmen.

    • UKJim says:

      Right, but it’s worse than that. Getting rid of jobs for experts and scientists is a plus.
      They might inject real information into a debate, and they all vote Democrat anyway, so can’t be real ‘muricans.

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