Background/Context: The postdoctorate has become an important component of research careers in a growing number of science and engineering (S&E) fields. However, a tight academic job market, the growing number of postdocs, and the heightened internationalization of the position in the United States call the traditional definition of the position into question.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Doctorate recipients who aspire to research careers may be forced to remain postdocs while waiting for their desired permanent position to become available. We hypothesize that foreign-born doctoral recipients, particularly those who are female and/or non-White, are more likely than their U.S.-born, male, or White counterparts to become a postdoc for reasons not related to professional training and development.
Research Design: To explore these hypotheses, we have analyzed individual-level data from the 2006 administration of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients using multinomial logistic regression.
Findings/Results: We find that the reasons for working as a postdoc differ by race, foreign-born status, and the interaction of these two factors. In particular, foreign-born Asians are much more likely than their White U.S. counterparts to accept a postdoc job because no other options are available.