Research

"Careers Versus Children: How Childcare Affects the Academic Tenure-Track Gender Gap"
(Job Market Paper)
Abstract: Although women compose the majority of biological science Ph.D. recipients, those who have children are 7 percentage points less likely than their male peers to ever obtain a tenure-track position - leading to a mere 30 percent female among tenure-track faculty. Using the largest nationally representative survey of U.S. Ph.D. recipients, this paper examines how the precise timing of a biological science Ph.D.’s first child birth affects employment status and job characteristics by gender. I find no gender gap in tenure- track rates among individuals who never have children and among individuals before they have children. 9 percent of mothers temporarily leave the labor force after their first child is born; those who remain reduce working hours by 12 percent, compared to fathers who reduce by 6 percent. Mothers return to the labor force when their children reach school-age but shift away from tenure-track positions, leading to a 10 percentage point gender gap among tenure-track faculty with six-year-old children. However, mothers do not leave research occupations with closer to standard forty-hour work weeks, such as industry and non-tenure track positions. I conclude that short-term reductions in work to focus on childcare combined with a competitive profession requiring long hours leads to long-term reductions in promotions, increasing the gender gap at the top levels of academia.

“What’s Another Year? The Lengthening Training and Career Paths of Scientists”

(Working Paper)

Abstract: Lengthening doctorate and post-doctorate training provides option value, allowing scientists to wait for academic research jobs. Using the largest nationally representative survey of U.S. Ph.D. recipients, I construct career paths for 156,089 research doctorate holders over six job types (postdoctoral researcher, tenure-track academic, non-tenure track academic, for-profit industry, non-profit, and government) and two employment statuses (unemployed and out of the labor force). Examining Ph.D. cohorts in four major science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields from 1950 to the present, I find evidence that the increasingly prevalent postdoctoral position provides option value to remain in academic research at a relatively low opportunity cost. Since the 1960's, a STEM Ph.D.'s probability of obtaining a tenure-track position has reduced from 42.8% to 25.2%. Remaining in longer doctoral and postdoctoral appointments does not significantly improve one's tenure-track chances but does increase one's chances of a permanent position at a research-intensive university, albeit not necessarily on tenure-track. To retain this option value, postdoctoral researchers pay an upfront salary cost; for those remaining in the academic sector, this salary gap closes within 10 years post-graduation. Thus, STEM Ph.Ds. interested in academic careers and not presently constrained may find the opportunity cost of postdoctoral positions worth the gain in option value.

 

"Where are All the Scientists? Resources for Studying the Long-Term Careers of STEM Ph.Ds."

(2020 NBER-IFS Value of Medical Research White Paper)

Abstract: Despite the considerable time and federal funding poured into training scientists, little attention has been given to the role of graduate programs and postdoctoral appointments on future careers – even as STEM trainees spend longer time in these positions. Basic information – such as the number of postdoctoral researchers at each institution – has proven difficult to collect, and the relevant data is spread across various sources. Thus, to assist meta-researchers, this white paper compiles a list of available resources that can be used to study the long-term career outcomes of STEM Ph.Ds. It also identifies shortcomings in current data collection and possibilities for future research avenues.