Failing Families, Failing Science

Work-Family Conflict in Academic Science

224 pages

9 tables and 3 b/w figures

August, 2016

ISBN: 9781479843121



Add to Cart Available: 7/29/2016

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Elaine Howard Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Rice University, where she is also Director of the Religion and Public Life Program and Rice Scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. She is the author of Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life and Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think.

All books by Elaine Ecklund

Anne E. Lincoln is Associate Professor of Sociology at Southern Methodist University.

All books by Anne E. Lincoln

Work life in academia might sound like a dream: summers off, year-long sabbaticals, the opportunity to switch between classroom teaching and research. Yet, when it comes to the sciences, life at the top U.S. research universities is hardly idyllic. Based on surveys of over 2,000 junior and senior scientists, both male and female, as well as in-depth interviews, Failing Families, Failing Science examines how the rigors of a career in academic science makes it especially difficult to balance family and work.

Ecklund and Lincoln paint a nuanced picture that illuminates how gender, individual choices, and university and science infrastructures all play a role in shaping science careers, and how science careers, in turn, shape family life. They argue that both men and women face difficulties, though differently, in managing career and family.  While women are hit harder by the pressures of elite academic science, the institution of science—and academic science, in particular—is not accommodating, possibly not even compatible, for either women or men who want to raise families. Perhaps most importantly, their research reveals that early career academic scientists struggle considerably with balancing their work and family lives. This struggle may prevent these young scientists from pursuing positions at top research universities—or further pursuing academic science at all— a circumstance that comes at great cost to our national science infrastructure. In an era when advanced scientific research and education is more important than ever, Failing Families, Failing Science presents a compelling inside look at the world of the university scientists who make it possible—and what universities and national science bodies can do to make a difference in their lives.


  • "Ecklund's and Lincoln's conclusions about the lives and aspirations of scientists may strike some as sheer heresy. But these are the very ones who need to read this book."

    —Judith Blau, author of Race in the Schools: Perpetuating White Dominance?

  • "Failing Families, Failing Science makes an important contribution to the burgeoning scholarship on gender and science and to the particular aspect of that scholarship focused on work-life balance.The particular contribution of this study is the inclusion of men in the surveys and interviews, allowing the understanding of what may really be gender differences or discrimination compared to generational or disciplinary differences.As the authors rightly suggest, little change will occur in addressing this complex, decades-old problem until it is seen as a problem that both men and women scientists want solved.This volume will add the perspective of men’s reasons and insights, along with those of women, to the demand for change."

    —Sue V. Rosser, author of Breaking into the Lab: Engineering Progress for Women in Science

  • “The authors very effectively integrate cutting edge sociology research findings with both the quantitative and qualitative results of their study.”


  • “This very accessible monograph would be excellent for undergraduate of graduate courses on gender, family, or work and occupations.”

    American Journal of Sociology