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Useful Stats: 2020 Higher Ed R&D intensity by state

February 17, 2022
By: Colin Edwards

As total Higher Education Research & Development (HERD) expenditures increased nationally and in most states from 2019 to 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic and global recession, HERD intensity also increased. HERD intensity is an indicator of the relative importance of R&D spending by colleges and universities to regional economies, and is calculated as HERD expenditures as a percentage of total gross domestic product (GDP). This edition of Useful Stats expands on previous SSTI analysis of total HERD expenditures in 2020 (the most recent figures available), specifically examining HERD intensity by state for the five-year period from 2016 to 2020.

Nationally, HERD intensity in 2020 was 0.41 percent. As seen in the interactive map below however, there was a wide range of HERD intensity at the state level. The states with the highest levels of HERD intensity in 2020 were Maryland (1.16 percent); Massachusetts (0.75 percent); Rhode Island (0.65 percent); Pennsylvania (0.62 percent); and, Vermont (0.58 percent). The states with the lowest levels were New Jersey (0.22 percent); Maine (0.22 percent); Idaho (0.20 percent); South Dakota (0.20 percent); and Nevada (0.17 percent).

Visualization Tip: Hover the cursor over a state in the map below to see additional details and five-year trends in HERD intensity.

This analysis also examines the five-year data (2016-2020) for annual changes in HERD intensity to help characterize the recent impacts of the pandemic on the innovation economy. The interactive image below shows that national HERD intensity increased 5.67 percent from 2019 to 2020 — representing the greatest annual increase compared to the previous several years. Specifically, the interactive chart below shows that annual HERD intensity (represented by the purple bars linked to the left axis) increased at the national level for nearly every year from 2016 to 2020, with a slight decline from 2017 to 2018. The chart also shows that as a result of both increased HERD spending and decreased GDP that HERD intensity increased at the greatest rate (represented by the black/red bars linked to the right axis) from 2019 to 2020 as compared to previous years at both the national level and in most states. The states that experienced the greatest increases from 2019 to 2020 were Vermont (42.62 percent); Wyoming (26.26 percent); Oklahoma (22.59 percent); Texas (16.38 percent); and, Alaska (14.82 percent).

The interactive chart above also shows that only six states experienced annual declines in HERD intensity in 2020 — fewer states than in any previous year from 2016 to 2020. Specifically, 14 states had annual drops in HERD intensity in both 2017 and 2019, while 29 states saw declines in 2018. The states that experienced declines in annual HERD intensity from 2019 to 2020 were Idaho (-0.17 percent); South Carolina (-0.14 percent); Maine (-1.17 percent); New Hampshire (-1.73 percent); Mississippi (-4.70 percent); and, South Dakota (-8.0 percent). Additionally, the declines that these states saw in 2020 were much lower on average than in previous years, with the average decline being 2.6 percent in 2020 compared to 3.2 percent in 2018 and more than 4 percent in 2017 and 2019.

The interactive visualization below combines the previous two for an additional tool to compare multiple states in a single view. Hold ‘Ctrl’ while clicking on multiple states to add them to the comparative view. Hovering the cursor over states in the map and over bars in the chart will also provide additional details. To reset the view, click on the empty “ocean” space or reload the webpage.

Click here for the data used in this analysis.

useful stats, higher ed, r&d