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Reasons for Becoming a Postdoc: Differences by Race and Foreign-Born Status


by Ying Huang, Brendan Cantwell & Barrett J. Taylor — 2016

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.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 11, 2016, p. 1-29
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21637, Date Accessed: 12/12/2017 12:58:43 PM

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About the Author
  • Ying Huang
    Thomas Edison State College
    E-mail Author
    YING HUANG, PhD, is a senior research analyst in the division of planning and research at Thomas Edison State College. Her research has been focusing on learning outcome assessment, institutional effectiveness, and international students in higher education. Her article entitled Transitioning Challenges Faced by Chinese Graduate Students was published in Adult Learning.
  • Brendan Cantwell
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    BRENDAN CANTWELL is an assistant professor of Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) at Michigan State University. His research addresses the political economy of higher education. Dr. Cantwell's recent research has addressed globalization of the academic research enterprise and institutional stratification. He is co-editor (with Ilkka Kauppinen) of Academic Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (The Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Barrett Taylor
    University of North Texas
    E-mail Author
    BARRETT J. TAYLOR is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at the University of North Texas. His research emphasizes the ways in which higher education institutions respond to and shape their environments, with recent projects highlighting the role of university trustees, the changing nature of the faculty, and institutional inequality. He is the coeditor (with Sheila Slaughter) of the forthcoming volume Higher Education, Stratification, and Workforce Development: Competitive Advantage in Europe, the US, and Canada (Springer Publishing).
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