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The Differential Impact of COVID‐19 on the Work Conditions of Women and Men Academics during the Lockdown



That the COVID‐19 pandemic has affected the work conditions of large segments of the society is in no doubt. A growing body of journalistic accounts raised the possibility that the lockdown caused by the pandemic affects women and men in different ways, due mostly to the traditionally gendered division of labor in the society. We attempt to test this oft‐cited argument by conducting an original survey with nearly 200 academics. Specifically, we explore the extent to which the effect of the lockdown on child‐care, housework and home‐office environment varies across women and men. Our results show that a number of factors are associated with the effect of the lockdown on the work conditions of academics at home, including gender, having children, perceived threat from COVID‐19, and satisfaction with work environment. We also show that having children disproportionately affects women in terms of the amount of housework during the lockdown.
The differential impact of COVID-19 on the work
conditions of women and men academics during
the lockdown
T. Murat Yildirim| Hande Eslen-Ziya
Department of Media and Social Sciences,
University of Stavanger
T. Murat Yildirim, Department of Media and
Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, Kjell
Arholms gate 41, 4021 Stavanger, Norway.
That the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work condi-
tions of large segments of society is in no doubt. A growing
body of journalistic accounts raised the possibility that the
lockdown caused by the pandemic has affected women and
men in different ways, due mostly to the traditionally
gendered division of labour in society. We attempt to test
this oft-cited argument by conducting an original survey
with nearly 200 academics. Specifically, we explore the
extent to which the effect of the lockdown on childcare,
housework and home-office environment varies across
women and men. Our results show that a number of factors
are associated with the effect of the lockdown on the work
conditions of academics at home, including gender, having
children, perceived threat from COVID-19 and satisfaction
with the work environment. We also show that having
children disproportionately affects women in terms of the
amount of housework during the lockdown.
academics, COVID-19, daily routines, gender, housework,
T. Murat Yildirim and Hande Eslen-Ziya contributed equally to this work.
Received: 27 June 2020 Revised: 27 July 2020 Accepted: 13 August 2020
DOI: 10.1111/gwao.12529
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2020 The Authors. Gender, Work & Organization published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Gender Work Organ. 2020;17. 1
That the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had differential impact on women and men across the
globe has received much recognition. The closure of schools and day care facilities has dramatically increased
childcare responsibilities, impacting parentsdivision of labour at home significantly. Recent accounts have shown
that the work and family boundaries became indistinct, and the gendered distribution of responsibilities within the
household became more apparent (Alon, Doepke, Olmstead-Rumsey, & Tertilt, 2020; Cui, Ding, & Zhu, 2020). Some
accounts go so far as to suggest that gender inequalities worsened during the lockdown (Minello, 2020). For working
women, this typically meant increased responsibilities as the main care provider and as an employee who needs to
work from home. Previously described as the double burden or the second shift, this brought forth an overwhelming
demand from both family and work (Hochschild & Machung, 2012).
In an attempt to understand the extent to which the pandemic-related lockdown has affected women and men
working in higher education, we designed a survey that asked a series of questions related to the experiences of
cademics from various countries, including Norway, Sweden, Italy, France, Germany, the United States and the UK,
among others. In particular, we examined the correlates of perceived changes in housework and childcare
responsibilities, as well as the work conditions of academics. Our results from a series of ordered logistic regressions
indicate that having children is the most important predictor of perceived changes related to work and housework,
with women reported being more heavily affected. Perhaps more importantly, we show that the lockdown's impact
on individuals varied significantly by whether one had children. Specifically, women with children have reported
being affected considerably more, compared with individuals without children.
In this article, we take critical gender theory as the basis of our theoretical framework where gender is defined as a
social constructed definition of biological sex where dos and donts of masculinity and femininity are shaped by
cultural ideals and social institutions (Acker, 1990; Connell, 2002; West & Zimmerman, 1987). Such gendered
construction in return results in creating and maintaining structural inequalities at all levels among which higher
education institutions are no exception. In fact, universities have long been gendered with strong hierarchy and
inequality between women and men academics, with the gap remaining wide in favour of the latter group (OHagan
et al., 2019). Such structural inequality gets even more enhanced once women have children and caring responsibili-
ties at home. This double burden constitutes one of the obstacles towards the worklife balance where the negative
spillover between paid work and domestic duties influences women enormously (Fleetwood, 2007).
We argue that the lockdown caused by the pandemic has worsened this dynamic. For instance, Jessen and
Waights (2020) report that working mothers combined childcare and homeschooling with their paid work during this
period by working long hours in the evening. Likewise, Andersen, Nielsen, Simone, Lewiss, and Jagsi (2020) show
that the pandemic has led women to devote more time to childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, where men
remained relatively less affected. The authors go on to argue that the pandemic had a differential impact on the
research productivity of women and men. We join this growing body of research in an attempt to advance our
understanding of the pandemic-related changes in the working conditions of women and men in higher education
To advance our understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work conditions of academics, we
fielded an online survey between 10 and 20 June 2020 via a cloud-based survey platform. In addition to commonly
used sociodemographic questions, the survey asked respondents a wide range of questions concerning their percep-
tions of the work environment at home during the lockdown. We circulated our survey both within and outside our
networks, mainly by posting our survey on the social media pages of various academic organizations. In total over
460 respondents have engaged with our survey, where 42 per cent of the respondents (n= 198) have completed
it. Among those who completed the survey, 65 per cent were women and 55 per cent were social scientists. Slightly
more than half of our respondents hold a permanent position, where those with less than five-year post-PhD experi-
ence constitute around 30 per cent of our sample. Finally, our sample is highly diverse in terms of the country of res-
idence of our respondents; about 90 per cent of our sample consist of academics working in France, Germany, Italy,
Norway, Sweden, Turkey, UK and the United States. We report the descriptive statistics of key variables in Table 1.
We utilize four ordinal dependent variables that measure the perceived changes in housework and work condi-
tions after the pandemic. We specifically asked how the pandemic has affected the respondent's (i) time spent on
work; (ii) routines in housework; (iii) routines in childcare; as well as (iv) how their contribution to housework has
been affected by the lockdown. Accordingly, we estimate a series of ordered logistic regressions, where we control
for a number of factors such as family income (single income = 1), satisfaction with home-office, satisfaction with
economic wellbeing, having children, holding a tenured position, age and being a social scientist.1
We report our findings from a series of ordered logistic regressions in Table 2, where we explore how the lockdown
has affected academicswork time (Model 1), routines in housework (Model 2) and in childcare (Model 3), and
TABLE 1 Descriptive statistics
Variable Obs Mean Std. dev. Min Max
Perceived threat from COVID
230 0.296 0.457 0 1
223 3.816 1.169 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
209 3.522 1.248 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
101 3.515 1.411 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
Contribution to chores
205 2.502 0.607 1 (less of my time) 3 (more of my time)
Satisfaction with economic wellbeing
200 3.275 1.098 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
Single income 200 0.355 0.48 0 1
Satisfaction with workspace at home
188 3.202 1.124 1 (not at all) 5 (a great deal)
Tenured 184 0.516 0.501 0 1
Age 184 2.897 1.038 1 5
Without child 253 0.356 0.48 0 1
Full professor 253 0.17 0.376 0 1
Social scientist 253 0.379 0.486 0 1
Gender (1 = woman) 253 0.474 0.5 0 1
Are you concerned that COVID-19 is more dangerous for you as an individual?
How did COVID-19 influence the time that you are spending on your work?
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your routines in housework?
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your routines in childcare?
Compared to what it was prior to the outbreak, your contribution to house chores is taking: [less of my time, same amount
of time, more of my time].
How satisfied are you with your economic wellbeing?
How would you rate your satisfaction with your workspace at home?
perceived changes in the contributions to housework (Model 4) during the period they worked from home. As seen
in the models, the gender variable is positive in all four models and statistically significant in two of the models, indi-
cating mixed evidence that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the work conditions of women academics
during the lockdown, compared with their male counterparts. In particular, women reported being affected at greater
rates in terms of their routines in childcare (p< 0.01) and in housework (p< 0.1). Furthermore, academics without
children reported being affected significantly less while those who perceived greater risk from COVID-19 reported
being affected significantly more by the lockdown. Satisfaction with the work environment at home and with eco-
nomic wellbeing appears to be important factors in explaining perceived changes in one experience with the lock-
down, though they come up statistically significant only in two models and at the p< 0.1 level.
Table 2 shows that having children appears to be one of the most important predictors of the perceived effect of
the pandemic. We delve further into this particular finding by interacting the without childvariable with gender to
explore whether having children affects female and male academics in similar ways. Figure 1 illustrates the substan-
tive impact of gender on daily routines at home across households with and without children, where the predicted
outcomes are COVID-19 has greatly affected my routines in houseworkand my contribution to housework takes
more of my time after the pandemic. As the figure on the left-hand side shows, women with children have stated at
greater rates that the pandemic has affected their routines in housework. In contrast, the gender gap is statistically
indistinguishable among households without children. While the figure on the right-hand side shows the gender gap
in the likelihood of saying housework takes more of my time after the pandemicamong the couples with children
TABLE 2 The impact of COVID-19 on the daily routines of academics
Effect on work
from home
Routines in
Routines in
Contribution to
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4
Women 0.515* (0.308) 0.477 (0.293) 1.208*** (0.449) 0.417 (0.330)
Without child 0.541* (0.302) 0.836*** (0.298) 0.838** (0.332)
Single income household 0.602* (0.308) 0.361 (0.295) 0.448 (0.527) 0.180 (0.325)
Satisfaction with
workspace at home
0.259* (0.137) 0.0206 (0.126) 0.347* (0.210) 0.0162 (0.141)
Satisfaction with economic
0.278* (0.144) 0.189 (0.135) 0.0555 (0.197) 0.00661 (0.152)
Perceived risk from
0.566* (0.336) 0.828*** (0.316) 0.877* (0.519) 0.710** (0.359)
Full professor 0.0870 (0.414) 0.0459 (0.395) 0.572 (0.515) 0.277 (0.439)
Tenured 0.205 (0.338) 0.259 (0.330) 0.635 (0.473) 0.184 (0.370)
Social scientist 0.0466 (0.282) 0.0601 (0.274) 0.492 (0.429) 0.0597 (0.306)
Age 0.00183 (0.175) 0.202 (0.164) 0.804*** (0.266) 0.0213 (0.186)
Constant cut 1 4.225*** (0.820) 3.409*** (0.767) 4.038*** (1.191) 3.030*** (0.858)
Constant cut 2 3.651*** (0.798) 2.321*** (0.745) 3.280*** (1.162) 0.556 (0.816)
Constant cut 3 1.989*** (0.760) 1.137 (0.731) 2.432** (1.131)
Constant cut 4 0.939 (0.746) 0.0381 (0.722) 0.977 (1.100)
Pseudo R
0.043 0.034 0.073 0.038
Observations 180 183 89 184
Standard errors in parentheses.
***p< 0.01;
**p< 0.05; p< 0.1.
*p< 0.1.
almost disappears, it is still clear that having children has no impact on the housework routines of men. What is more,
relative to women without children, women with children found housework much more time-consuming.
Our findings based on an original survey with academics show that while the gender gap in the extent to which the
pandemic has affected the working conditions of academics is only weak, the gap becomes alarming among aca-
demics with children. Specifically, we show that the daily routines of women academics with children have been dis-
proportionately affected by the pandemic-related lockdown. These findings are greatly in line with the findings
suggesting that:
academic work in which career advancement is based on the number and quality of a person's scientific publica-
tions, and their ability to obtain funding for research projects is basically incompatible with tending to children
(Minello, 2020, p. 1)
and that having children leads to reductions in the academic productivity of women, but not men (Lutter &
Schröder, 2020, p. 442). Our findings also lend strong support to recent research that found similar gender gaps in
the broader population (Collins, Landivar, Ruppanner, & Scarborough, 2020). As schools and childcare facilities were
closed during the pandemic, households with children were left with childcare responsibilities including their
homeschooling on a daily basis. Our findings imply that the traditionally gendered distribution of labour within the
household disproportionately affects men and women working as academics, even among dual-income families.
Although our data do not allow us to tell more about the causal mechanism at work, one possibility is that the lock-
down may have forced women working in academia to prioritize care-taking responsibilities in line with cultural
ideals of the good mother(Collins, 2020; Sutherland, 2010), bolstering the traditional gender roles at home.
In the absence of concrete projections as to when higher education institutions will return to normal, we pro-
ceed with caution in interpreting the implications of our findings for the working conditions of academics in the near
future. However, the gender gap in perceived challenges related to increased caregiving demands among academics
is not likely to wane soon if the pandemic worsens in the coming months to further aggravate the disruption of
FIGURE 1 The interactive effects of gender and having children on housework
routines at work and home. The growing importance of distance learning in the coming semester will surely require
many academics from across the globe to reorganize their teaching strategy to go online, which might come at the
expense of academicsresearch activities. Hence, while it is early to tell the long-term consequences of this trend for
academicsresearch activity, the gender gap in perceived disruptions in daily routines may translate into gendered
disparities in research productivity. Future research delving further into these possibilities might help us better
understand how the pandemic has affected, and will continue to affect, families from across the globe.
The survey utilized in this study was designed in collaboration with Selcen Ozturkcan, who we thank for her
extremely constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We would also like to thank the editors
and the reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interests with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this
T. Murat Yildirim
Hande Eslen-Ziya
There is no multicollinearity among our variables. The correlation between tenured and full professor is 0.48, whereas the
correlation between full professor and age is 0.47.
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T. Murat Yildirim is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stavanger. His research focuses on legislative
behavior, public opinion and gender politics, and has appeared in various journals including Journal of European
Public Policy, Party Politics, Policy Studies Journal, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Political Research Quar-
terly, among others.
Hande Eslen-Ziya has an established interest in gender and social inequalities, transnational organisations and
digital activism, and has a substantial portfolio of research in this field. Currently she co-edited the book titled
The Aesthetics of Global Protest: Visual Culture and Communication published at Amsterdam University Press.
Eslen-Ziya is the Co-I of Covid-19 project funded by the Norwegian Research Council (2020-2022): Fighting
pandemics with enhanced risk communication: Messages, compliance and vulnerability during the COVID-19
outbreakDr. Eslen-Ziya is an Associate Prof. of Sociology at the University of Stavanger and founder of the
Populism, Anti-Gender and Democracy Research Group.
How to cite this article: Yildirim TM, Eslen-Ziya H. The differential impact of COVID-19 on the work
conditions of women and men academics during the lockdown. Gender Work Organ. 2020;17. https://doi.
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This study aims to characterize the strategies researchers used to cope with Covid-19 impact and to explore the relationship between those strategies, researchers’ characteristics and the pandemic impact in their lives. 721 researchers, proportionally distributed among three Spanish regions, answered an online survey on the pandemic impact on their activity. Scales referred to social support, productivity, research tasks, working conditions, and work and personal life balance. An open-ended section was included to collect the strategies they used to cope with the pandemic consequences. 1528 strategies were content analysed and categorised based on their purposes and related to the rest of the impact variables. Results show the predominance of some strategies for the whole sample both at the work level, such as organizing work duties and plans, and at the personal level, such as maintaining life-work balance and improving personal well-being. Results stress to what extent a strategic approach contributed to minimize contextual issues or constraints even in an extreme situation as the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. A non-strategic approach, consisting of just reacting emotionally or dropping research, was the less effective way to maintain interest in research, sustained work and productivity and to warrant work-life balance. Developing a strategic approach was easier for those without caring responsibilities and for men. Women in our study, especially with caring responsibilities, had reduced opportunities to continue with their careers during the pandemic. No evidence of institutional strategies supporting researchers to cope with the situation was found.
... Several studies and accounts have emerged from the community of women academics reporting similar patterns of struggle with the increased pressures of balancing parenthood and professional demands (Boncori, 2020;Gourlay, 2020;Guy and Arthur, 2020;Yildirim and Eslen-Ziya, 2021). The closure of public schools and the loss of formal childcare service during the pandemic is a major reason for this increased pressure on working mothers (Crook, 2020). ...
The present study aimed to identify the experiences of female academics with children regarding distance learning and working from home during the pandemic, their problems, gains, and opinions about the impacts of being a woman on their experiences within this process. To this end, the study adopted the qualitative research method of phenomenological design. Interviews were conducted with 11 participants with children working at the same university offering courses by means of distance learning during the pandemic. The data were examined through content analysis. The participants expressed that they encountered a variety of problems particularly due to being a woman. They stated that they assumed many different roles and struggled to carry out the responsibilities. Almost all participants indicated a significant decline in the volume of academic studies, considering the excessive amount of responsibilities assumed by women and the lack of sharing the workload at home. The present study is expected to help female academics realize that these problems are not unique to them, providing them with a source of motivation.
Objective: The gendered impact of the COVID-19 on scientific productivity has been primarily studied in nonclinical academic fields. We investigated the gendered effect of the pandemic on diverse measures of research participation among physician faculty, who experienced an increase in clinical duties concomitant with pandemic-era challenges to research. Materials and Methods: Physician faculty employed in both 2019 (prepandemic) and 2021 (pandemic era) were identified at one U.S. medical school. Annual outcomes included scientific publications, Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved protocols, and extramural funding submissions (funding data were unavailable for 2019). Mixed-effects Poisson regression models compared the pandemic impact by gender. Results: The study included 105 women and 116 men, contributing to 122 publications, 214 IRB protocols, and 99 extramural funding applications. Controlling for potential confounders such as faculty rank and track (tenure vs. nontenure), women's publication count increased by 140% during the pandemic (95% confidence interval [CI]: +40% to +310%, p = 0.001) but was unchanged among men (95% CI: -30% to +50%; p > 0.999). The number of IRB protocols decreased from 2019 to 2021, but to a greater extent among men than women. In 2021, there was no gender difference in the number of extramural funding submissions. Conclusions: Among physician faculty at our medical school, women achieved parity with men on multiple measures of scholarly activity, and women's research productivity outpaced that of men in the same faculty track and rank. Targeted initiatives to support research among women faculty, junior investigators, and clinical investigators may have helped avert exacerbation of prepandemic gender disparities in research participation.
This article interrogates how the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic influenced the way that we produce online personas as migrants to Australia. By conducting comparative autoethnographic analysis of our online personas built on the social media sites Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we unpack the role of mediated persona performance in connecting to our adopted homes as well as our connection to, and forced separation from, our countries of origin. There is a growing body of research on the impact of COVID-19 on migrants, particularly on forced migrants throughout Europe, and the impact of racism directed at migrants during the early stages of the pandemic. In Australia, scholars considered the role of technology in mediating relationships during lockdowns in 2020. This project broadens the scope of this body of research by looking at migrants who came to Australia with the intention of staying, by looking across platforms, and by considering not only what is shared and why, but what is absent: the ways we were – and are – strategically silent in our online persona performances.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in school closures and distancing requirements that have disrupted both work and family life for many. Concerns exist that these disruptions caused by the pandemic may not have influenced men and women researchers equally. Many medical journals have published papers on the pandemic, which were generated by researchers facing the challenges of these disruptions. Here we report the results of an analysis that compared the gender distribution of authors on 1893 medical papers related to the pandemic with that on papers published in the same journals in 2019, for papers with first authors and last authors from the United States. Using mixed-effects regression models, we estimated that the proportion of COVID-19 papers with a woman first author was 19% lower than that for papers published in the same journals in 2019, while our comparisons for last authors and overall proportion of women authors per paper were inconclusive. A closer examination suggested that women’s representation as first authors of COVID-19 research was particularly low for papers published in March and April 2020. Our findings are consistent with the idea that the research productivity of women, especially early-career women, has been affected more than the research productivity of men.
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Many working mothers in the US say that they feel guilty about their inability to live up to cultural ideals of the “good mother” embedded in intensive mothering discourse. Intensive mothering is reflected in and exacerbated by the country’s work-family policies. The United States is an outlier among Western welfare states for its lack of policy supports for families, assuming that childrearing is a private responsibility even though most mothers work outside the home today. So how do working mothers outside of the US experience maternal guilt? Does a more family-friendly policy environment mitigate these feelings of guilt? Using detailed accounts of four women drawn from a larger interview study of 109 working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States, I demonstrate how policy context does—and does not—make a difference in the experience of maternal guilt. A feeling of guilt helped to define “good mothers” across all four contexts. However, I found that public policy has a role to play in reducing maternal guilt in three specific ways: (1) by giving mothers more time outside of work, (2) encouraging fathers to complete more unpaid care work, and (3) distributing the responsibility and costs of childrearing more broadly.
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Academic capitalism is an outcome of the interplay between neoliberalism, globalisation, markets and universities. Universities have embraced the commercialisation of knowledge, technology transfer and research funding as well as introducing performance and audit practices. Academic capitalism has become internalised as a regulatory mechanism by academics who attempt to accumulate academic capital. Universities are traditionally gendered organisations, reflecting the societal gender order. Despite fears regarding the feminisation of the academy, the embrace of academic capitalism is contributing to its re-masculinisation and exercises an incidental gender effect. Practicing is the means by which the gender order is constituted at work. Three practices in which academics engage are examined as exemplars of the way academics increase their academic capital stock in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) faculties in four European universities, in Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland and Turkey. These practices tend to be more achievable and likely to be engaged in by men, thus, career practices are the mechanism through which the gender effect of academic capitalism is achieved, academic capitalism perpetuated and the gender order maintained in STEM in academia.
School and daycare closures due to the COVID‐19 pandemic have increased caregiving responsibilities for working parents. As a result, many have changed their work hours to meet these growing demands. In this study, we use panel data from the U.S. Current Population Survey to examine changes in mothers’ and fathers’ work hours from February through April, 2020, the period of time prior to the widespread COVID‐19 outbreak in the U.S. and through its first peak. Using person‐level fixed effects models, we find that mothers with young children have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers. Consequently, the gender gap in work hours has grown by 20 to 50 percent. These findings indicate yet another negative consequence of the COVID‐19 pandemic, highlighting the challenges it poses to women's work hours and employment.
Based on data that tracks curriculum vitae (CV) and publication records as well as survey information from sociologists in German academia, we examine the effects of parenthood on the publication output of male and female academics that were present in German universities or research institutes in the year 2013. Results indicate that having children leads to a significant decline in the number of publications by women on average, while not affecting the number of publications by men. However, the gendered effect of children on productivity hardly mitigates differences in publication output between men and women, as women still publish about 20 per cent less than men after controlling for the adverse effects of children on productivity. The gendered effect of childbearing depends partly on prior levels of women’s academic achievements, suggesting a mechanism of performance-driven self-selection. Lower-performing women tend to suffer a stronger motherhood penalty than better performing women, while the publication output of successful women (who have been granted academic awards) is not reduced through childbirth. The results indicate that women are better at managing the ‘double burden’ of kids and career if external, award-giving committees have bestowed prestige upon them or indicated their potential for a scientific career.
The purpose of this article is to advance a new understanding of gender as a routine accomplishment embedded in everyday interaction. To do so entails a critical assessment of existing perspectives on sex and gender and the introduction of important distinctions among sex, sex category, and gender. We argue that recognition of the analytical independence of these concepts is essential for understanding the interactional work involved in being a gendered person in society. The thrust of our remarks is toward theoretical reconceptualization, but we consider fruitful directions for empirical research that are indicated by our formulation.