May 24, 2006

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Engineering numbers

I expect this will be ESWN's cup of tea...The Standard reprints a WaPo article that digs into the supposed plethora of engineering graduates in China and India as opposed to the United States. It appears the numbers on graduate engineers from both China and India, unsurprisingly, are on the rubbery side of accurate:

Among such recent attention-getting statistics are 600,000, 350,000 and 70,000. These are, allegedly, the number of engineers produced in 2004 in China, India and the United States, respectively....Bialik couldn't find any obvious birthplace for the Indian figures, but National Science Foundation analysts told him the number was unlikely to be anywhere near 350,000. As for the academies' report, Deborah Stine, who led the study, told Bialik that the committee had "assumed Fortune did fact- checking on their numbers" and so used them.

Meanwhile, a McKinsey Global Institute report had cast doubt on the quality of the Chinese engineering graduates, so Bialik reasoned that removing unqualified candidates would obviously reduce the total.

Read the full article to see "conventional wisdom" at work and at its worst. We saw something similar with the numbers for Hong Kong's July 1st marches (something ESWN looked at both in 2004 and in 2005). It also emphasises two truths: it pays to be sceptical of statistics in the press and it pays to be sceptical of statistics from China.

posted by Simon on 05.24.06 at 08:34 AM in the China category.


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Tracked: June 13, 2006 09:34 PM


the indian # and chinese # seems quite comparable.

i do not think it is the problem of stats. take HK as an example. people often complained that U-grads pay scales starts from around 8000-1200 15 years ago and about the same today. but they forgot to mention the obvious, that there are 8 Univ today, vs 2 back then. and the starting salaries of the top 2 Univ have increased significantly. (as much as 35-50k for top students)

posted by: sun bin on 05.24.06 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

the first question is: what is an engineer? this is a non-trivial question.

The US number of 70,000 per year comes from a NSF table like this one:
But Engineering degrees in USA will not cover computer sciences, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, architecture, operations research, logistics, etc. So you think a computer scientist (either software or hardware) is not an engineer?

I don't know how China or India keep their classification systems. I am not sure that the bookkeeping is the same.

posted by: eswn on 05.24.06 at 07:57 PM [permalink]

Yes, what is an engineer indeed. When I first came over to work on the mainalnd as an urban planner I was surprised when my colleagues referred to me as an engineer. Math and the like are definitely not my strong suit, but so be it.

posted by: Hatch on 05.25.06 at 11:55 AM [permalink]

These numbers may or not be accurate but I think the prospects are good that they are close enough not to be easily dismissed. It may be because of some statistics I read over 40 years ago, and those WERE accurate. They stated the graduation rate ratio of engineers to lawyers in a little island nation was 21 times the graduation rate ratio of engineers to lawyers in the U.S. Remember Japan?

posted by: Mr. V on 06.16.06 at 09:15 AM [permalink]

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