The U.S. economy is weakening relative to our global competitors. Recent economic growth is 40 percent below any other growth period since World War II as other economies around the globe draw in more investment, both foreign and domestic. In contrast, despite still being the world’s leading recipient of direct foreign investment, business investment overall in the United States between 2001 and 2007 was the slowest in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, competition is on the rise. From 1980 to 2011 China increased its share of world economic output from 2 percent to 14 percent. And India more than doubled its output during that period, from 2.5 percent of global production to 5.7 percent. The U.S. share of the world economy fell to 19 percent from 25 percent.
While increasing global competition is inevitable, lackluster U.S. performance need not be. Indeed, rising growth and incomes in other countries present potential new opportunities and markets for American workers and companies. But if the United States means to continue to lead the world and to share our prosperity with it, U.S. policymakers must deploy an American strategy that is responsive to modern economic challenges—a strategy that makes it possible for every American family to ensure that children entering adulthood are prepared to find a successful place in the global economy.
What should the strategy be? Economists of all stripes point to a robust pipeline of skilled workers as the essential ingredient of a strong and growing economy. Indeed, the two countries most rapidly gaining on the United States in terms of economic competitiveness—China and India—have ambitious national strategies of investing and promoting improved educational outcomes for children to strengthen their positions as contenders in the global economy.
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