Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities

By Ronald G. Ehrenberg; Harriet Zuckerman et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Role of Gender and Family Status

It seems that the men oftentimes get married
sometime in the last couple years of the program
and whether or not they obtain funding continue
on supported by their spouse. It seems upon re-
flection, that the women in the program for some
reason either stop toward the end of the program
to bear children—then in the end take many
more years (for ex. 10 years) to graduate or they
drop out due to lack of funding.

—A 2002 religion PhD who began in 1995

THE ANALYSES we presented in Chapter 4 touched on the association between gender and probabilities of attrition and completion. They showed that, other factors held constant, women are more likely to have left the program by their eighth year of doctoral study and less likely to have received a degree than men. Many prior studies have reported similar results.1

One of the factors of which we took account in our analyses in Chapter 4 was the field in which a graduate student was enrolled, so differences across fields in the share of students who are women and in average timeto-degree (TTD) and completion rates cannot explain our findings. Moreover, our analyses in Chapter 5 show that there were no differences in financial support patterns between the men and women in our sam

1 Previous studies that have addressed gender differences in attrition and completion
probabilities include Bowen and Rudenstine (1992); Belinda Crawford Seagram, Judy
Gould, and Sandra W. Pyke, “An Investigation of Gender and Other Variables on Time to
Completion of Doctoral Degrees,” Research in Higher Education 39 (June 1998): 319–35; and
Maria Ferreira, “Gender Issues Relating to Graduate Student Attrition in Two Science De-
partments,” International Journal of Science Education 25 (August 2003): 969–89. An early study
of the impact of marital status is Saul D. Feldman, “Impediment or Stimulant? Marital
Status and Graduate Education,” American Journal of Sociology 78 (December 1973): 982–94,
which found that married women, but not married men, face increased pressure to drop out
of their doctoral programs. Finally, Nettles and Millett (2006) report that married PhD stu-
dents in a variety of fields are less likely to “stop out” of their PhD programs, are more likely
to complete their degrees, and have shorter TTD than students who are single.

-156-

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