Monday, August 6, 2018

98. Your family pays a price.

Few people choose to become parents while living the life of relative poverty that graduate school entails. If you go to graduate school, in fact, there is a good chance that you will never have children (see Reason 31). For women, the likelihood of childlessness increases with education. The U.S. Census reported that about 23 percent of women with a graduate or professional degree between the ages of 40 and 50 were childless in 2012. When it comes to securing tenure, women who do not have children enjoy a significant advantage over women who do (see Reason 71). Childless men are hardly uncommon in academe either. Graduate students who have children have described the difficulties of being a parent in graduate school. Likewise, it is difficult to be the child of a graduate student for many of the same reasons that it is difficult to be married to a graduate student (see Reason 58). The demands of graduate school are tough on parents and children alike, not to mention the debt, job insecurity, and relocations that are typically a part of the bargain. When the television personality Dr. Phil McGraw was 12 years old, his father was a full-time graduate student. The family made ends meet by delivering daily newspapers on a 52-mile paper route.

Whether you have children or not, you are still part of a family, and you probably like your family. Your family members like you, too. They may even be encouraging you to go to graduate school. If that is the case, they are doing so with the best intentions, but they likely do not realize that they are nudging you toward a career that will take you (and keep you) far away from them. It doesn’t matter where you live now or where you go to graduate school, because the very few jobs available to you at the end of the graduate-school pipeline will rarely be where your family is (see Reason 16). The enormous time commitment required to earn a PhD (see Reason 4) means that by the time you settle into a permanent faculty position—if you are lucky enough to find one—your parents will be reaching the age when they can most use your help. After years in school, you won’t have much in the way of financial resources to help them. In the worst-case scenario, you will still be dependent on their money (see Reason 12). And because you probably won’t live anywhere near your parents, your children, if you have any, will be far from their grandparents. There is no flexibility in the academic job market, so if you need to give up your job to be closer to people who need you, it will mean giving up your academic career. Contemplate your priorities carefully before you plunge into graduate school. Academic life can be as hard on the people you love as it is on you.