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Paid Parental Leave In Academia Is Rare, U.Va. Study Shows

January 29, 2004 -- University of Virginia researchers today released preliminary results of a nationwide study of parental leave policies that found fewer than one-fifth of all institutions of higher education provide parental leave beyond maternity leave for new parents.

The study, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Bankard Fund, showed that only 18 percent of institutions nationwide offer paid leave for both men and women. Another 8 percent offer paid leave for women only, for a combined total of 26 percent of institutions that offer some kind of parenting leave above a six-week maternity leave.

“The passage of paid, family-leave legislation in California in 2002 generated new interest in paid-leave policies,” said Steven Rhoads, professor of politics at U.Va. and the study’s principal investigator. “In academia, paid, parental-leave policies have been in existence for more than a decade to help in recruiting and retaining female faculty. But our research shows that paid leave in academia is still a fairly elite benefit.”

The study found that formal, paid-leave policies are associated most commonly with elite private institutions: more than half (51 percent) of top-tier schools offer paid leave. Moreover, private schools are almost twice as likely as public schools to offer a paid leave – 34 percent compared with 18 percent.

However, the study found frequent use of informal leave arrangements– nearly a quarter, (23 percent) of those schools with no formal, paid-leave policy reported informal arrangements.

The majority of schools (67 percent) that do have paid leave policies offer a leave of a full quarter or semester. Another 25 percent offered between 8 and 12 weeks. But a full quarter of the schools that offered paid leave did not provide a full relief of academic duties during the leave period.

The survey also explored the extent to which existing policies were utilized and whether faculty who took advantage of them saw a negative impact on their careers.

“Administrators were unanimous in asserting that their institutions do not stigmatize faculty members who use the policies,” said Charmaine Yoest, project director and a doctoral candidate in the University’s Department of Politics. “But some academics told us they feared that using parental leave would mean increased scrutiny of their work and diminished career prospects.”

The project as a whole explored faculty experiences with work and family policies at institutions of higher education around the United States. Data were gathered from administrators at 168 academic institutions by telephone interviews conducted in the summer and fall of 2001. The sample was stratified according to the competitiveness of the school and then selected with "probabilities proportionate to size" (based on the number of full-time faculty). The institutional data then were weighted, making the sample representative of universities nationwide."

A second stage of the study explores the experience of balancing work and family life by assistant professors on the tenure track at institutions with paid-leave policies. Those results will be reported later this year.

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For more information, call Charmaine Yoest at (434) 963-7930, or contact her by email at yoest@virginia.edu. Or, visit the project Web site at: http://faculty.virginia.edu/familyandtenure.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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