Confronting the 2-Body Career Problem [Poll Results]

For physicists, the two-body problem has a solution: neat equations describe the motion of two objects orbiting one another. But the career version of the two-body problem, which arises when two high-achieving partners try to find satisfying jobs, is much more complicated.

Scientific American posted a survey this past Valentine’s Day to find out more about the two-body problem, and 1,594 people responded (fewer than the response to last year’s survey, but still a nice turnout). The majority of respondents, 65 percent, were women and the average age was 33. Regrettably, 89 percent had experienced or expected to experience the two-body problem.

Just over half of respondents were academics, reflecting the prevalence of this problem in academia, where almost three quarters of people have employed partners, 36 percent of whom are also academics. (The proportion of professors in the survey could also be biased by our readership.) We also received sizable responses from people not in academia or science (28 percent) and scientists not in academia (21 percent). Commenters outside academia noted this challenge is also common for military families, musicians, dancers, lawyers and government workers.

The most telling answers came from the open comment section at the end of the poll. …

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This article originally appeared on Scientific American‘s website on March 20, 2015. 

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