The United States engaged in roughly $608 billion worth of research and development in 2018. That figure includes R&D by all entities in the US, from universities to private and public corporations. During the same year, corporations in the S&P 500 spent $806 billion buying back their own stock. In other words, the 500 largest companies in the US are now spending 33% more on their stock buyback programs than the entire country is investing in R&D. Cumulatively, buybacks have now outpaced R&D investment for the last five years. From 2014 through 2018, total R&D investment in the US was roughly $2.736 trillion whereas S&P 500 buybacks totaled $2.978 trillion.
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