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Comptroller: A postdoctoral researcher is an individual who comes to the University for the principal purpose of furthering his/her personal development by engaging in research programs….stipends provided to all recipients are considered non-compensatory and therefore not ‘wages’ for Federal income or FICA tax withholding purposes” (3). Because FICA taxes, which include Social Security, are not withheld, postdocs gain some additional take home pay, but are losing the future benefits that accrue from paying into Social Security, including eligibility for federal disability benefits. The NIH is reportedly reconsidering allowing Kirschstein-NRSA fellows to be classified as employees, but the federal government generally does not move quickly on these issues.

Finally, a related issue that postdocs with families face is insurance coverage for their dependents. Insurance coverage through the University of Pennsylvania Postdoctoral Insurance Plan(4) is roughly $400 per child per month, representing 10% of the take home pay of an average postdoc. Currently, mentors have the option of contributing to dependent-care costs, but are not required to do so. Many do not, although the rules regarding what grant funds can be spent on may restrict their ability to contribute to these costs. It is clear that we must work towards a more sustainable future for postdocs with families, but how quickly this will come and in what form remains unknown.

To add your voice to the conversation, consider joining a BPC committee on childcare to lobby the administration to improve these conditions. If you are interested, please contact Sayantani Sinha at






BPCNewsletter, Spring 2016 8

"It is clear that we must work towards a more sustainable

future for

postdocs with families."

Most postdocs surveyed rely on a daycare center or a spouse / partner to care for their children (Above).

However, daycare centers can be costly - the majority of postdocs with children spend up to a third of their household income on childcare (R).

(Figures Credit: Amanda Zacharias, Image Credit: Creative Commons / Public Domain Pics)