A second survey of nearly 7,000 HBS alumni and just over 1,000 members of the general public found ongoing concern regarding America's ability to compete in the global economy but wide agreement between liberals and conservatives on the direction national policy should take to reverse that slide.
The research is part of the HBS US Competitiveness Project, launched in 2010 to assess structural challenges to the US economy and identify ways that leaders in business, labor, government, and academia can work together to address those challenges.
Fifty-eight percent of alumni expect a decline in competitiveness over the next three years, although pessimism has eased somewhat from an earlier survey conducted in 2011. "They see the boat as sinking more slowly, but still sinking," says Jan Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration and cochair of the project with Bishop William Lawrence University Professor Michael Porter.
In assessing an immediate path forward, both liberal and conservative business leaders urged compromise to secure a sustainable federal budget, corporate tax reform, and the easing of high-skill immigration. Responsible extraction of newly accessible energy supplies and a more level playing field in the international trading system also garnered strong support across the political spectrum. Liberal business leaders tended to support greater infrastructure investment, however, while selective streamlining of regulations saw stronger approval from conservatives.
"Historically, the United States has always risen to face its greatest challenges," says Dean Nitin Nohria. "The message from business and labor to our political leaders is clear: We must make the word compromise an honored word in American politics again. As we've found through our research, a diverse group of leaders stands ready to support Washington in this effort."