Decline Watch: U.S. continues Nobel dominance

There are few signs of the Amerislump in Stockholm. U.S. economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics. This is the 11th straight year that at least one of the recipients of the economics prize has been American. All three of the physics winners this year and one of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
548661_1279079902.jpg
548661_1279079902.jpg

There are few signs of the Amerislump in Stockholm. U.S. economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims were awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Economics. This is the 11th straight year that at least one of the recipients of the economics prize has been American. All three of the physics winners this year and one of the medicine winners were also American. 

In terms of total, all-time Nobel wins, the United States has more than twice as many as any other country and as this chart from Flowing Data shows, that dominance has only increased in recent years. The glaring exception is the literature category, which no American has won since Toni Morrison in 1993. 

China is something of a Nobel underperformer. While there have been dozens of Nobel winners of Chinese descent, and Chinese birth, the only one who actually made his career in China was last year's Peace Prize winnder Liu Xiaobo, one that Beijing is not exactly proud of. 

There are few signs of the Amerislump in Stockholm. U.S. economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics. This is the 11th straight year that at least one of the recipients of the economics prize has been American. All three of the physics winners this year and one of the medicine winners were also American. 

In terms of total, all-time Nobel wins, the United States has more than twice as many as any other country and as this chart from Flowing Data shows, that dominance has only increased in recent years. The glaring exception is the literature category, which no American has won since Toni Morrison in 1993. 

China is something of a Nobel underperformer. While there have been dozens of Nobel winners of Chinese descent, and Chinese birth, the only one who actually made his career in China was last year’s Peace Prize winnder Liu Xiaobo, one that Beijing is not exactly proud of. 

Decline-o-meter: The U.S. has a formidable lead on this one. But keep in mind that this is something of a lagging indicator since, in the science categories, as opposed to the Peace Prize, awards are typically given for work done several years in the past rather than in the previous year.  

Also, the large number of immigrants and dual citizens who have won awards in the sciences suggests that the U.S. edge may be its ability to attract talent as much as its ability to produce it. The U.S. will need to continue to be a desirable destination for the best and the brightest if the streak is to continue. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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