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The Two-Body Problem

Dual-Career-Couple Hiring Practices in Higher Education

Lisa B. Wolf-Wendel, Susan Twombly, and Suzanne Rice

Publication Year: 2004

Approximately eight of every ten academics have spouses or partners who are working professionals, and almost half of these partners are academics as well. In fact, dual-career academic couples are so prevalent that "the two-body problem" has become a common way of referring to the situation. Increasingly, intense competition to hire the best faculty forces institutions to assist dual-career couples in finding suitable employment for the accompanying spouse or partner. The authors of The Two-Body Problem examine policies and practices used by colleges and universities to respond to the needs of dual-career couples within the economic, legal, and demographic contexts of higher education. Using data from an extensive survey of public and private universities as well as in-depth case studies of institutions representing distinctive approaches to this problem, the authors find that the type of institution—its location, size, governance, mission, and resource availability—is a critical factor in determining dual-career employment options. The Two-Body Problem describes various accommodation models in depth and provides valuable information for college and university administrators responsible for hiring faculty and supporting their performance.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. v-vi

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-15

What do Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University; Nan Keohane, president of Duke University; Ruth Atchley, assistant professor at the University of Kansas; Lucia Perillo, assistant professor at Southern Illinois University; Theodore Bromund, untenured instructor at Yale; and the fictitious Joshua Gordon, doctoral candidate, have in common?* ...

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2. Dual-Career Couples: Who Does What and Why

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pp. 16-46

Our initial insights into dual-career couples in higher education were derived largely from the experiences of colleagues who were themselves academic couples, along with a few journal articles and book chapters. As our interest in academic couples deepened, we realized there were no large-scale policy studies on the topic. ...

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3. Introduction to the Cases and the Qualitative Method

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pp. 47-51

Chapters 4–8 are based primarily on data collected from case studies of five academic institutions that have approached the task of assisting dual-career couples in different ways. These institutions do not necessarily represent the “best” approaches, but they do serve as models of how different institutional types in different places ...

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4. Relocation Services

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pp. 52-68

Jack and Cindy have been married for ten years and have two children aged seven and five. Jack has a Ph.D. in physics and recently accepted a position as an assistant professor at Riverdale University. Although he had three offers, he and his wife liked Riverdale and the small city where it is located. It will be a good place to raise their children. ...

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5. Accommodation through Non-Tenure-Track and Adjunct Faculty Positions

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pp. 69-85

Although she had just completed her Ph.D. in biology, Ann was considered by many to be a rising star in her field. She had received offers of employment from two excellent state institutions before accepting a position at Belle State University. ...

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6. Accommodation through Split and Shared Positions

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pp. 86-97

Jenny and Max were married while still in graduate school, where they both pursued degrees in American literature. Four years—and two children— later, they found themselves struggling to cope with the demands of work and family. While both Jenny and Max had found reasonably good positions right out of graduate school, they were working at institutions some two hundred miles apart. ...

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7. Accommodation through Shared Advertising

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pp. 98-101

Craig and Mary were both completing their dissertations in Japanese literature and were thinking seriously about academic employment opportunities. They were reasonably hopeful that they would both be hired into tenure-track positions. After all, they were graduating from a top program, had already published several articles, and had influential advisers. ...

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8. In Pursuit of Tenure-Track Positions

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pp. 102-119

Natalie and Aaron, like many academic couples, met and later married while attending the same graduate school. Natalie was getting her doctorate in English and Aaron was getting his in history. Both were ambitious and determined to find tenure-track positions in their fields at research universities. ...

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9. Common Concerns about Dual-Career Hiring Practices

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pp. 120-152

There is little disagreement among academic couples that finding satisfying employment at the same institution, or at least at institutions close together, is ideal. In some circumstances, colleges and universities will find it advantageous to accommodate couples and partners. ...

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10. The Two-Body Problem Revisited: Conclusions and Recommendations

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pp. 153-176

In this chapter we revisit the reasons colleges and universities ought to be concerned with the needs of dual-career academic couples. We begin by discussing some shifting assumptions about the role that institutions of higher education play in managing human resources and caring for the quality of life. ...

Appendix A: Survey Methodology

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pp. 177-178

Appendix B: Useful Internet Resources

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pp. 179-182


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pp. 183-188


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pp. 189-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780801881497
E-ISBN-10: 0801881498
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801874512
Print-ISBN-10: 0801874513

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 551889726
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Two-Body Problem

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Subject Headings

  • Academic couples -- Employment -- United States.
  • Academic couples -- Selection and appointment -- United States.
  • Dual-career families -- Employment -- United States.
  • Dual-career families -- Selection and appointment -- United States.
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