Marital status and the presence of children were often mentioned as critical to assessing gender differences. Rosser (2003) surveyed women who received an NSF POWRE award between 1997 and 2000. She found that “overwhelming numbers of survey respondents found ‘balancing work with family’ to be the most significant challenge facing women scientists and engineers. Interestingly, the responses remained remarkably similar across disciplines: balancing work with family responsibilities was the major issue for women from all the fields of study covered by the survey.” Spouses and children presented competing demands for time on the part of a faculty member and might bring additional actors or considerations into decision making. These competing demands may have meant that some faculty had less human capital, experience, or productivity; or that applicants for academic positions were more constrained in where they applied because of family or the spouse’s employment considerations (often referred to as geographic mobility or the two-body problem).
Did these factors affect men and women similarly? Research suggests that the answer was no. Women were more likely to be negatively affected by marriage and the presence of children. The NRC (2001a) found some evidence that being married with young children helped men but hurt women in terms of their academic career. The size of this effect had been shown to increase for men and to decrease for women. Xie and Shauman (2003) and Mason and Goulden (2002) found that marriage and family also negatively affected women pursuing science and engineering careers.
Toutkoushian (1998a:515) laid out an hypotheses as to why the effect of marital status on faculty salary might differ by gender: on the supply side, since women “often bear the majority of child-rearing responsibilities in American society, married women may be more likely than married men to interrupt or reduce their time allocation to their career,” or “married women may accept lower wages in order to find employment at the same institution as their spouses.” On the demand side, “institutions may make higher salary offers to married men than to married women on the premise that married men are typically the breadwinners of the family and thus have a greater need for higher salaries.” Using NSOPF:93 to analyze faculty salaries, Toutkoushian found that the return on marriage for men was statistically significant and positive, but there was no corresponding return for women.
Sax et al. (2002:426) focused on the role of family-related variables in research productivity. Specifically, they asked: “Do marriage, children, aging parents, and other family-related factors influence faculty research productivity?” and “Is the nature of family-related factors dependent on gender or tenure status?” They analyzed data from the 1998-1999 Higher Education Research Institute Faculty Survey. They found, first, that male faculty were more productive than women, when compared at increasing levels of output over 2 years, i. e., a greater percentage of women than men produced zero publications, while a greater percentage of men than women produced five or more publications. However, Sax et al. found that “family variables contributed little or nothing to the prediction of faculty research productivity. More important were professional variables such as academic rank, salary, orientation toward research, and desire for recognition” (p. 435). Sax et al., hypothesized the lack of effect may have resulted because women who had children were able to do more with their limited time and reduce their time in activities outside of work and home (i. e., leisure time).
Perna (2003a:2) used the NSOPF:99 “to examine the ways in which parental status, marital status, and the employment status of the spouse are related to two outcomes, tenure and promotion, among college and university faculty.” In an earlier study drawing on data from the NSOPF:93, Perna (2001c, cited in 2003a:3) “found that parental and marital status were related to employment status among junior faculty and that the relationships were different for women than for men. Men appeared to benefit from having children, as men with at least one child were less likely to hold a full-time, non-tenure track position than they were to hold a full-time, tenure track position.” In this study, Perna found
measures of family ties are related to tenure status and academic rank, but the contribution of family ties to tenure status and academic rank was different for women than for men.
Contrary to expectations based on economic and social capital perspectives, having dependents and having a spouse or partner employed at the same institution were both unrelated to tenure and rank among women faculty at 4-year institutions in the fall of 1999. In contrast, men appeared to have benefitted in terms of their tenure status and academic rank from having dependents and in terms of their academic rank from being married. Compared with other men, men without dependents were substantially less likely to hold tenured positions and were more likely to hold the lowest academic ranks of instructor, lecturer, and ‘other.’ Men also appeared to benefit in terms of their academic rank from being married. Specifically, men with a spouse or partner who was employed at the same institution were less likely to hold the lowest ranks of assistant professor and instructor, lecturer, or other rank than they were to hold the highest ranks of full and associate professor. Men with a spouse or partner who was not employed in higher education were more likely than other men to hold the rank of full professor.
Kulis and Sicotte (2002:2) examined “whether women are disproportionately drawn to large cities, areas with many local colleges, and the regional centers of doctoral production.” Reviewing the literature, they suggested, regardless of academic achievement, wives in dual-career households were more likely to be the “trailing spouse” or “tied migrant” whose career suffered after a move, or were the one who was constrained from moving to a more advantageous career destination (p. 6). To test such hypotheses, they turned to the 1998 SDR. Their findings were essentially that women were congregated in fewer geographical areas. Women “scientists overall have more geographically constrained careers in academia, even controlling for marital status, parental responsibilities, and age” (p. 21). Women in these areas also had reduced career outcomes compared with men.” Mason and Goulden (2002) conducted research on “family formation and its effects on the career lives of both women and men academics from the time they receive their doctorates until 20 years later.” They employed data from the SDR for 1973-1999. They found “in the sciences and engineering, among those working in academia, men who have early babies are strikingly more successful in earning tenure than women who have early babies. Surprisingly, having early babies seems to help men; men who have early babies achieve tenure at slightly higher rates than people who do not have early babies. Women with early babies often do not get as far as ladder-rank jobs.” Data from the analysis of the SDR suggested many married women with children indicated that they were considering leaving academia.