Latinx postdocs call for need-based relocation grant for incoming postdocs

Oct. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m.

The Stanford Latinx Postdoc Association (SLPA) called for the creation of a need-based relocation grant for incoming postdocs in an open letter to the Stanford community on Monday. SLPA released the results of their survey on postdocs’ moving and living expenses on the same day.

212 postdocs, including 55 Latinx postdocs, participated in the survey, which was conducted from July to September this year. The survey found that while postdocs are overall “dissatisfied with their financial situation,” Latinx postdocs are disproportionately impacted by a range of affordability issues.

While differences between Latinx and non-Latinx postdocs on some individual issues might be slim, “the fact that all these different indicators consistently show the same directionality in the disadvantage” suggests that the issue is systemic, said former biology postdoc and former co-chair of the Stanford Latinx Postdoc Association (SLPA) Sur Herrera Paredes, who helped to prepare the survey report.

Latinx postdocs are more likely to request financial assistance to move to Stanford, according to the report. Nearly 30% of Latinx postdoc respondents requested financial assistance, approximately double the percentage of non-Latinx postdoc respondents who requested assistance.

“There are too many disadvantages for specifically Latinx people to [move] to Stanford,” said Maria Belen Perez-Ramirez, a neurology and neurological sciences postdoc and co-chair of SLPA who also worked on the survey report.

The Daily has reached out to the University for comment on whether there are plans to provide financial assistance to help postdocs defray the costs associated with moving to Stanford.

According to the report, Latinx postdocs also pay more for housing and car transportation and live farther from campus than non-Latinx postdocs. 78.2% of Latinx postdoc respondents pay more than $2000 monthly in rent and utilities, compared to 66.2% of non-Latinx postdoc respondents. Latinx postdocs are less likely than non-Latinx postdocs to live in the nearby Palo Alto/Menlo Park area.

Amongst the respondents who own a car, half of the Latinx postdocs spend over $300 monthly on transportation, compared to around a fifth of non-Latinx respondents.

The survey found that housing, car transportation and food expenses have increased when compared to the results of the most recent Postdoctoral Benefits Survey, according to SLPA’s report. The previous survey was conducted by the Stanford University Postdoctoral Association (SURPAS) from December 2021 to January 2022.

According to the SLPA report, the increases are “likely driven by inflation” and have “outpaced minimum salary increases.” Clare Abreu, a biology postdoc and SLPA board member, said that the effect of inflation was another issue they “wanted to make sure that the administration knew about.”

Over 60% of respondents indicated that they feel their salary is insufficient to cover their living expenses. Latinx postdocs are more likely to feel negatively affected by their financial situation than non-Latinx postdocs.

Some postdocs shared more information on their finances in an open-ended question in the survey. Some of the responses mentioned the impacts of finances on mental well-being. One respondent wrote that the thought of being unable to “put anything aside for emergencies or the future” is “kind of unsettling at times.” Another wrote that their salary is “enough to get through the end of the month, but not to sleep sound.” Two respondents mentioned sacrificing needed healthcare treatments and going into debt in response to the question.

The Daily has reached out to the University for comment on whether there are any plans to support postdocs in difficult financial situations, and on the impact of postdocs’ financial situations on their wellbeing and mental health.

The survey results are based on respondents’ self-identification with the “Latinx” label. The report acknowledged that the differences the survey measured between Latinx and non-Latinx postdocs might be “replicated or magnified” for other historically marginalized groups, though it did not attempt to measure results for those groups.

“We focus on measuring the Latinx population because that’s our community, that’s who we represent,” said Herrera Paredes. He said other factors, such as being first-generation or low-income, may be associated with similar or, in some cases, greater challenges.

“It will be good to continue doing this type of survey” in the future, Perez-Ramirez said. She also said that SLPA is committed to supporting SURPAS’s efforts to support postdocs.

The cost of relocation is not the only issue facing postdocs, Herrera Paredes said, but it “probably hasn’t gotten as much attention” as other issues. There’s plenty more to be done to help postdocs beyond a moving grant and they “are also advocating for those,” he said.

A previous headline referred to postdocs as students. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Anne at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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