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The Distribution of Family-Friendly Benefits Policies across Higher Education Institutions: A Cluster Analysis

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Methodological & Theoretical Contributions to Engineering Education 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1200.1 - 24.1200.17



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Paper Authors


Corey T. Schimpf Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Corey Schimpf is a PhD candidate in Engineering Education. His research interests include examining how cyberlearning and informal learning environments can be brought into the engineering curriculum, how educational policies affect academic pathways for faculty and students and design research. His dissertation explores how a gaming platform can be used to facilitate early college engineering students skills development.

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Joyce B. Main Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Joyce B. Main is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning, Teaching, and Social Policy from Cornell University, and an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Cluster Analysis of Family-Related Benefits Policies across U.S. Academic InstitutionsAlthough the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering tenure-track facultypositions is often linked to the conflict between childcare responsibilities and the normativeacademic 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 onwork/life policies in higher education have pushed our understanding of how organizationalstructure and political climates at the department and institution levels influence the ability offaculty members to integrate career and life responsibilities. Many postsecondary institutionsoffer 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 andmedical reasons per year if the employee has worked for the employer at least 12 months. Thetypes of family-related benefits offered, however, vary greatly across postsecondary institutionsin the United States. Using cluster analysis, this study identifies the patterns of availability ofparental leave and childcare benefits across U.S. academic institutions by grouping institutionsinto clusters of similar institutions. By so doing, the paper highlights the rates at which differenttypes of institutions adopted family-friendly policies since the FMLA.Cluster analysis is a technique for grouping a collection of cases, such as institutions, by anumber 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 appliesa k-means cluster analysis, a well established technique previously used in engineering educationresearch, to identify patterns in types of benefits policies offered by institutional characteristicsor profiles. The characteristics examined include student demographics and enrollment size,faculty size, research expenditures, and instructional expenditures. The data come from theNational Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) Institution survey conducted by the NationalCenter for Education Statistics with response rates exceeding 86%. The nationally representative1993 and 2004 samples include 974 and 1,080 public and private not-for-profit institutions thatconfer associates, bachelors, or advanced degrees, respectively.Preliminary results with six clusters indicate that doctoral research institutions with the highestaverage instructional and research expenditures are more likely to offer a greater number offamily-related benefits to both part-time and full-time faculty compared to associates, bachelorsor masters institutions. These doctoral institutions also have the largest average studentenrollment and a relatively more diverse student population. Ongoing work includes identifyingthe 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 berevealed. Research findings will provide a national perspective of academic institutions’ effortsto facilitate work-life integration among faculty to help administrators, policy makers, and otherstakeholders shape educational policy.

Schimpf, C. T., & Main, J. B. (2014, June), The Distribution of Family-Friendly Benefits Policies across Higher Education Institutions: A Cluster Analysis Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23133

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