Family and the field: Expectations of a field based research career affect researcher's family planning decisions

Field-based data collection provides an extraordinary opportunity for comparative research. However, the demands of pursuing research away from home creates an expectation of socially unencumbered individuals who have the temporal, financial, and social resources to conduct this work. Here we determine if this myth of the socially unencumbered scholar contributes to the loss of professionals and trainees. To investigate this, we conducted an internet-based survey of professional and graduate student anthropologists (n = 1025) focused on the challenges and barriers associated with developing and maintaining a fieldwork-oriented career path and an active family life. This study sought to determine how (1) family socioeconomic status impacts becoming an anthropologist, (2) expectations of field-based research influence family planning, and (3) fieldwork experiences influence perceptions of family-career balance and stress. We found that most anthropologists and anthropology students come from educated households and that white men were significantly more likely to become tenured professionals. This gender disparity is striking because a larger number of women are trained in anthropology and were more likely than men to report delaying parenthood to pursue their career. Furthermore, regardless of socioeconomic background, anthropologists reported significant lack of family-career balance and high stress associated with the profession. For professionals, lack of balance was most associated with tenure concerns, age, and having children (p < .001), while for students it was peer pressures, marital status, ethnic identity, and being parents (p < .025). Anthropology bridges the sciences and humanities, making it the ideal discipline to initiate discussions on the embedded structural components of field-based careers generalizable across specialties.
fieldwork, field-based research, family-career balance, stress, graduate students, anthropology, intersectionality, family, career planning