2014 ASEE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Cluster Analysis of Family-Related Benefits Policies across U.S. Academic Institutions Although the under-representation of women in science and engineering tenure-track faculty positions is often linked to the conflict between childcare responsibilities and the normative academic tenure-track pathway, previous studies have tended to focus on individual life choices,rather than the effects of institutional-level policies and structure. More recent research on work/life policies in higher education have pushed our understanding of how organizational structure and political climates at the department and institution levels influence the ability of faculty members to integrate career and life responsibilities. Many post-secondary institutions offer more generous work/life benefits than required by the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons per year if the employee has worked for the employer at least 12 months. The types of family-related benefits offered, however, vary greatly across post-secondary institutions in the United States. Using cluster analysis, this study identifies the patterns of availability of parental leave and childcare benefits across U.S. academic institutions by grouping institutions into clusters of similar institutions. By so doing, the paper highlights the rates at which different types of institutions adopted family-friendly policies since the FMLA. Cluster analysis is a technique for grouping a collection of cases, such as institutions, by a number of attributes or variables. It is used across many fields including education, engineering,life, social, and physical sciences as an exploratory or data mining technique. This study applies a k-means cluster analysis, a well established technique previously used in engineering education research, to identify patterns in types of benefits policies offered by institutional characteristics or profiles. The characteristics examined include student demographics and enrollment size,faculty size, research expenditures, and instructional expenditures. The data come from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) Institution survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics with response rates exceeding 86%. The nationally representative 1993 and 2004 samples include 974 and 1,080 public and private not-for-profit institutions that confer associates, bachelors, or advanced degrees, respectively.Preliminary results with six clusters indicate that doctoral research institutions with the highest average instructional and research expenditures are more likely to offer a greater number of family-related benefits to both part-time and full-time faculty compared to associates, bachelors or masters institutions. These doctoral institutions also have the largest average student enrollment and a relatively more diverse student population. Ongoing work includes identifying the rates of adoption of benefits policies following the FMLA. By analyzing both 1993 and 2004,changes in the overall profiles of institutions with different policy arrangements may also be revealed. Research findings will provide a national perspective of academic institutions’ efforts to facilitate work-life integration among faculty to help administrators, policy makers, and other stakeholders shape educational policy.


2014, ASEE, benefits

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