Because what's a day without at least three bleak articles about academia, grad-student-Facebook-land has now brought me to this piece about the difficulties of getting a PhD and job in the humanities without outside support. UChicago doctoral candidate David Mihalyfy writes:
Spousal income, a parent-owned condo, a trust fund – no matter which, these necessities increasingly make a humanities Ph.D. less of a career path and more of a leisure pursuit for those with financial stability from elsewhere, even for students at top institutions.It's one of the rare trustafarian exposés that remembers that sometimes - strange as it may seem - 30-year-olds (40-year-olds) are married. That the invisible extra source of income of someone ancient might be a spouse, and not mom and dad. Far too often, articles about the broke and humanitiesish suggest that it's this upper-middle-class thing to support one's kids financially until said kids themselves reach retirement age. And, eh, I don't think it's quite gotten to that point.
Further, similarly scattered thoughts below:
-Is marriage to someone who earns more than a grad student does privilege in the same way as having rich parents? I mean, it's pretty equally unearned advantage, or at least irrelevant advantage, but it doesn't necessarily indicate that "Despite rare exceptions, our humanities professors will come from wealthier backgrounds." I mean, a grad student whose spouse is a plumber or schoolteacher is at an advantage. It hardly needs to be Wall Street.
Now, it certainly doesn't say anything good about a career path if you need a decade of outside support to get started. It doesn't seem like the way to get the best candidates for anything. It's still wildly unfair. But if the concern is social mobility into academia, and the socioeconomic class of resulting humanities profs, spousal support would be less of an issue.
-In order to succeed on the academic job market, what you need on your CV are fellowships. Grants. Scholarships. Awards. These things tend to come with money. Needing money - being someone for whom $500, say, isn't just a night on the town - is an awfully big motivator to shoot for these, or at least I found it to be. If something is your job, you may well be more likely to treat it as one. Those who approach grad school as dabblers (no matter the source of outside income) and don't apply for extra (or any) funding may well have more time to publish, but they may have gaps in other key areas.
-Being married/partnered as a grad student isn't necessarily a career advantage. It does seem to up the odds that one will have kids. And as great a thing as marriage to a high-powered hot-shot (or anyone with a job, really) can be in terms of allowing some - like a woman mentioned in the piece - to avoid grueling perma-adjuncting, often enough, a spouse with a decent salary isn't going to want to move to Outer Mongolia (selected due to its current non-existence; no offense intended to Mongolians generally, nor to the Mongolian family who used to be my neighbors in particular) with you when that's the place that has the only tenure-track job in Medieval Tapestry Studies.
Nor will the grad-student spouse necessarily think Outer Mongolia and a far lower family income (and what about when Outer Mongolia deems you unworthy of tenure?) beats not-Outer-Mongolia and high school teaching/non-profit work/library work/from-scratch housespousery/retraining-in-air-conditioner-repair/there's-always-law-school. Don't let anyone stand between you and your dreams! But god forbid you should have found a partner before age 35, and that that person should also have dreams, and that that person's dreams pay more and in a better location. The best you - a purely theoretical you - can hope for is that in the course of grad school, you realize your dream may not have been Professor of Medieval Tapestry Studies after all.
(There isn't a two-body problem, generally, when parents or a trust fund are the source of whichever cushion. Although I don't think the first of the helicoptered generation is old enough yet for grad school.)
-Did you think I was going to let this go without a gender angle? No such luck. It seems possible that being partnered helps men but not women. While - given, if nothing else, the fact that men tend to earn more than women - women with husbands (because most couples are opposite-sex) may have a better shot at avoiding garret starvation, women may also have more trouble than men when it comes to getting a spouse to move wherever a job happens to be. A single man, meanwhile, will lack whichever Stable Adult With Family aura that apparently benefits married men - and not married women - on the job market, academic or otherwise.