Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Parents are Productive Sociologists

The American Sociological Association's researchers Roberta Spalter-Roth and William Erskine did a study of which sociologists use family-support policies, such as flextime and delayed tenure clocks. They wanted to see if mothers were more productive than their childless counterparts when they used such policies.

The results are striking. Mothers, not surprisingly, used family-support policies much more than childless women do. And it is also not surprising that mothers who didn't use family support were less productive than childless women. Thus, in 2003, these were the median number of peer-reviewed publications for the two groups:

unsupported moms: 4
childless women: 5

And now comes the interesting part. Family support closed the gap between moms and single women. And then doubled the gap, in favor of the moms. Average number of peer-reviewed publications by supported moms: 9.

Having kids is not career death for academics. On the contrary, with a bit of support from the school, mothers can be much more productive than childless women, just as fathers have long been more productive than childless men.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's reassuring! Positive studies like this chip away at a person's anxieties.

halifax said...

What would Francis Bacon and Mary Wollestonecraft think? Bacon wrote that 'he that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises...Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men', which Wollestonecraft quoted approvingly, adding that she 'say[s] the same of women.'

Gruntled said...

If that were absolutely true, the price of greatness would be too high. Fortunately, there are many counter-examples. It is probably true that a career of great works is easier for the childless, but swapping some great works for some kids seems a fair bargain.

Since Mary Wollestonecraft died in childbirth, she may be particularly bitter.