Headlines about automation and job loss dominate the news daily, and an anxiety about the future of work is present not only here in the U.S., but across the entire globe. But within these fears about the impact of technology on jobs, there is also a bright sliver of hope for the future. The nature of work is changing, and new opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields (STEM), may yet bring about a new age of peace and prosperity for citizens of our country, and beyond.
The Poverty Problem (and the STEM Solution)
Poverty rates nationally and internationally have continued on a path of steady improvement, but there is still much work to be done so that all members of our international community can live a life of peace and prosperity. According to the most recent estimates from the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 35 percent since 1990, and yet that number is still incredibly high: more than 10 percent of the world’s population makes do on less than $2.00 per day.
In the U.S., poverty statistics paint a similar picture. The latest census figuresindicate that poverty rates have declined in recent years, but 13.5 percent of Americans still live in poverty, a figure 1% higher than the pre-recession rate in 2007. That’s over 43 million people living on just over $12,000 for a single person household, or less than $25,000 annually for a family of four.
The scope of the problem of poverty on our planet cannot be overstated, but, fortunately, the potential impact of STEM education has an outsized footprint as well. An education based approach to creating peace and prosperity in our lifetime is not only possible, it’s vital if we are to create a rising world community of leaders prepared to create solutions, as well as greater equity and safety.
How STEM Expands Opportunities for Peace and Prosperity
Increasing access to STEM education for youth who are currently in school or adults looking for retraining opportunities is an excellent way to boost access to income and increase stability. According to a 2015 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), health, and business majors are the highest paying, leading to average annual wages of $37,000 or more at the entry level and an average of $65,000 or more annually over the course of a recipient’s career.”
But much work still needs to be done to ensure that greater access to STEM education actually helps alleviate some of the current inequities that serve as a barrier to peace and prosperity, including the gender gap. A 2017 World Bank blog notes that the gender gap between women and men employed in STEM continues to be quite significant, but that “recent work suggests that correcting gender segregation in employment and in entrepreneurship could increase aggregate productivity globally by as much as 16 percent.”
In other words, if we collectively work to ensure that all people are granted greater access to high quality STEM education, and are then provided equal access to work in the STEM field, we could see a massive boost to our prosperity on a global scale.
Pursuing a career in STEM is individually rewarding for both the mind and the pocketbook, but it’s our collective efforts to get more young people into STEM that has the potential to, quite literally, transform our world economy from a place of crisis, into one of peace, prosperity, and solutions for the myriad concerns of our modern times.