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U.S. R&D activities as economic investments

NSF Award:

Research and development treated as an investment in U.S. gross domestic product and related national economic accounts  (Bureau of Economic Analysis/ NCSES)

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) now treats research and development (R&D) activities performed in the U.S. as investments. This move, begun in July 2013, increases the level and growth rate of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the market value of final goods and services produced by the U.S. BEA will recalculate historical data to include R&D as an investment.

R&D will now be treated like other long-term investments such as physical infrastructure, equipment and software in the U.S. GDP, and related national economic accounts. This change is consistent with a better understanding of the role of knowledge creation in economic growth and with updated international guidance for GDP and related statistics. The underlying R&D statistics come from theĀ National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics' (NCSES) R&D surveys, adjusted for GDP concepts by BEA. The changes in GDP methodology are the result of a multi-year collaboration between BEA and NCSES.

R&D activities across science and engineering fields have long-term social and economic benefits contributing to the achievements of public policy goals, and to a variety of business applications. One way to measure these benefits is by their impact in the level and growth of GDP.

Current-dollar GDP would have been, on average, 2.6 percent higher for 2002 to 2007 if R&D spending had been treated as investment.


  • the bureau of economic analysis now treats research and development as an investment
The Bureau of Economic Analysis now includes R&D activities as investments.

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