Thursday, September 15, 2005

child care

Nature this week has surveyed the worldwide status of campus childcare, particularly focusing on the issues of cost and availability for post-docs and graduate students. Here's a good summary sentence: "Without affordable child-care options, long hours and low pay force many postdocs to make an unfortunate choice between work or motherhood."

A few standout facts for those of us in the U.S.:
  • More than one-third of US postdocs have children.
  • Yet only 10% of surveyed research institutions have childcare on-site.
  • Waiting lists for on-campus centers are looooonnng.
  • Access to campus facilities may be preferentially given to faculty over post-docs and students. But here at my institution it works in reverse: students get first priority, and post-docs and faculty are left to dangle.
  • Post-docs may spend more than 50% of their salary on child-care
  • Only 4 survyed U.S. institutions offer childcare subsidies (amazingly, one is JHU)
  • Women postdocs pay almost double the care costs that men pay.
I'm left with a few questions:
  • Of their surveyed "research institutions" did they include universities or just independent research centers (e.g. Salk Insitute, etc.)? Because I don't know of many big universities that don't have some sort of child care center.
  • Why is this primarily a women's issue? I'd have to guess that the number of single parent women postdocs is small, so it seems to me that dads should be equally responsible for finding and paying for child care.
  • Why is it assumed in this article that the solution for scientists/mothers is better child care? Wouldn't it have been better to also discuss the status of arrangements like part-time or flex-time post-docs and faculty appointments? How about shared appointments?
  • If I can look forward to spending 50% of my salary on childcare, and 30% of our joint income on housing, not to mention all of the other necessities of life (health insurance, utilities, etc.), how do they expect me to make it finanically? Oh, yeah, they figure that years of poverty while I was a grad student have lowered my expected standard of living so far that I will look upon the approximate doubling of my salary to post-doc levels as if I had suddenly stumbled on a treasure chest.

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