Equal but Inequitable: Who Benefits from Gender-Neutral Tenure Clock Stopping Policies?
IZA Discussion Paper No. 9904, April 2016
Heather Antecol, Claremont McKenna College and IZA
Kelly Bedard, University of California, Santa Barbara
Jenna Stearns, University of California, Santa Barbara
Abstract: Many skilled professional occupations are characterized by an early period of intensive skill accumulation and career establishment. Examples include law firm associates, surgical residents, and untenured faculty at research-intensive universities. High female exit rates are sometimes blamed on the inability of new mothers to survive the sustained negative productivity shock associated with childbearing and early childrearing in these environments. Gender-neutral family policies have been adopted in some professions in an attempt to “level the playing field.” The gender-neutral tenure clock stopping policies adopted by the majority of research-intensive universities in the United States in recent decades are an excellent example. But to date, there is no empirical evidence showing that these policies help women. Using a unique data set on the universe of assistant professor hires at top-50 economics departments from 1985-2004, we show that the adoption of gender-neutral tenure clock stopping policies substantially reduced female tenure rates while substantially increasing male tenure rates.
Longer summary from Inside Higher Ed:
...The study included data from 49 top economics departments and examined the impact of clock-stopping policies that are open (as has become the norm) to both male and female professors who become parents. Stopping the clock typically involves giving tenure candidates an extra year before they are evaluated for tenure. Notably, stopping the clock does not require a leave of absence, so the extra time covers a period when faculty members are in many cases working and being paid. The study was based on data about 1,299 assistant professors hired by these departments between 1985 and 2004.
The findings are based on comparing the tenure rates for male and female candidates before and after adopting clock-stopping policies that cover all faculty members who have a child. At these universities, only a minority of men and women were earning tenure prior to the adoption of the policies -- so earning tenure was not a given for anyone.
The bombshell finding was that, when comparing candidates for tenure, the success rate for male candidates increased by 19.4 percentage points after stopping the clock was offered. For women, the rate fell by 22.4 percentage points. (Many appeared to go on to win tenure at institutions whose economics departments were not as highly ranked as those where they started.) While each tenure case is unique, the authors did not find other changes in tenure policies to explain the numbers.
The authors of the paper then tried to look for factors that changed in the productivity or success of the job candidates. They found one factor: male professors, after adoption of stopping the clock policies, were more likely to publish in the top five economics journals, and women were not. This appeared to raise the tenure bar for all, but with men more able to get over that bar.
In economics, journal articles are the coin of the realm in tenure decisions, and top-ranked departments pay a lot of attention to which journals publish an assistant professor. The paper defines the top five journals as American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics and Review of Economic Studies.
Trying to publish in those journals, while desirable to any up-and-coming economist, is also risky, due to their higher rejection rates than other journals. The authors of the new paper speculate that male economists who become fathers are taking the extra year on the tenure track not to nurture their offspring, but to write more articles and to have time to submit them to top journals. They then had time, if rejected by those journals, to submit elsewhere...