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  NSF 02-322 | June 2002   PDF format PDF format | See Related Reports  

Half the Nation's R&D Concentrated in Six States

by Richard J. Bennof Send an e-mail message to the author

In 1999, the 20 highest ranking states in R&D expenditures accounted for 86 percent of the U.S. total, while the lowest ranking 20 states accounted for only 5 percent.

In 1999, the most recent year for which these data are available, total U.S. research and development (R&D) expenditures were $244 billion, of which $232 billion could be attributed to expenditures within individual states with the remainder falling under an undistributed "other/unknown" category. The statistics and discussion in this InfoBrief refer to state R&D levels in relation to the distributed total of $232 billion.

R&D Expenditures by State

R&D is substantially concentrated in a small number of states. In 1999, the 20 highest ranking states in R&D expenditures accounted for 86 percent of the U.S. total, while the lowest ranking 20 states accounted for only 5 percent. The six states with the highest levels of R&D expenditures—California, Michigan, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania (in decreasing order of magnitude)—accounted for one-half of the entire national effort. And the top 10 states—adding, in descending order, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, and Maryland—accounted for nearly two-thirds (table 1). As in prior years, California had the highest level of R&D expenditures in the Nation (nearly $48 billion); it alone accounted for about one-fifth of the $232 billion U.S. R&D total. California's R&D effort exceeded by more than a factor of two that of the next highest state, Michigan, with $19 billion in R&D expenditures. After Michigan, R&D levels for the top 10 states declined incrementally to $8 billion for Maryland.

Table 1. Leading states in total R&D performance, R&D by sector, and R&D as a percentage of GSP: 1999
  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Sector Distribution of R&D Performance by State

States that are national leaders in total R&D performance are also usually ranked among the leading states in terms of R&D performance by the industrial and academic sectors. Thus, 9 of the top 10 states for total R&D (all but Maryland) were the leading industrial R&D-performing states; Ohio rounded out this list of top 10 industrial R&D states. The leading four industrial R&D-performing states were also the top four ranked states in total R&D performance. For academic R&D, North Carolina and Georgia replaced New Jersey and Washington among the top 10.

There was less commonality among the top 10 states for total R&D and those states performing the most Federal intramural research. Only four states were found in both top 10 lists: Maryland, California, Texas, and New Jersey. The six additions to the Federal intramural list, listed in descending order of Federal R&D performance, were the District of Columbia, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Ohio, and New Mexico. Maryland ranked first among Federal R&D performers, followed by the District of Columbia, Virginia, and California. This top-three ranking is not unexpected, since it reflects the concentration of Federal facilities and administrative offices within the national capital area. Alabama, Florida, and New Mexico rank among the highest in Federal R&D because of their relatively high shares of Federal space- and defense-related R&D.

The leading 10 states in total R&D performance in 1999, and in each of the three performing sectors discussed above, were also among the 10 leading R&D-performing states in 1998, with the single exception of Georgia, which replaced Ohio among the top academic R&D performers in 1999.

Ratio of R&D to Gross State Product

States vary significantly in the size of their economies, owing to differences in population, land area, infrastructure, natural resources, and history. Consequently, variations in the R&D expenditure levels of states may simply reflect differences in economic size or the nature of their R&D efforts. An easy way of controlling for the size effect is to measure each state's R&D level as a proportion of its gross state product (GSP). That proportion is referred to as R&D intensity or concentration.

Overall, the Nation's total R&D to gross domestic product ratio was 2.5 percent in 1999. The top 10 rankings for state R&D intensity in 1999 were, in descending order, New Mexico (6.43 percent), Michigan, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Washington, California, Delaware, and Idaho (the last with an intensity of 3.85 percent). Each of the 10 states with the highest R&D intensity levels in 1999 was also among the top 10 states in R&D intensity in 1998. New Mexico's high R&D intensity is largely attributable to Federal (specifically Department of Energy) support of the federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Federal Support for R&D by State[1]

The leading 10 Federal agencies that fund R&D reported a total of $74 billion in Federal R&D obligations to all types of performers in fiscal year (FY) 1999 (table 2). The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) together provided 70 percent of this total R&D.

Table 2. Federal R&D obligations, by agency and state: FY 1999
  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

California and Maryland were the two largest recipients of total Federal R&D funds. Recipients in California received 26 percent of DoD's R&D support, over four-fifths of which went to industrial firms. Maryland received 22 percent of HHS's funding, almost three-fourths of which covered intramural activities at the National Institutes of Health's biomedical research facilities. California also received more R&D funds from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and from the National Science Foundation (NSF) than any other state. The main recipients in California of NASA R&D funding were FFRDCs (most notably, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and industrial firms. Fully 93 percent of NSF's funding in California went to universities and colleges. Maryland had the largest share of any one Federal agency's total R&D support, with 36 percent of the Department of Commerce's R&D funds; nearly all of this funding was for intramural research activities.

User Notes

NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS) collects and analyzes statistics on the geographic distribution of R&D expenditures in the United States among the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The data are categorized by type of performer (industry, Federal Government, academia, FFRDCs, and other nonprofit organizations) and by source of funds (industry and Federal Government, and for university performers only, state government, academia and other nonprofit organizations).[2] The amounts of R&D funding from specific Federal agencies also are provided.

In addition to these state R&D statistics, SRS collects state-specific data in its surveys of science and engineering (S&E) personnel and institutions. These data and those assembled from non-SRS sources (e.g., data on population, patents, and GSP) are included in a set of 52 one-page S&E state profiles available at

Data on U.S. and state R&D expenditures were assembled from ongoing NSF surveys. For information about S&E State Profiles, please contact:

Richard J. Bennof
Division of Science Resources Statistics
Research and Development Statistics Program
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230


[1] The Federal R&D totals in this section reflect funding of R&D by Federal agencies only. In comparison, the R&D totals discussed in the previous sections reflect the performance of R&D by various sectors, including the Federal Government.

[2] Data on industry R&D—and therefore on total R&D—performance are not available for Puerto Rico.