In the past 25 years, more dads have been staying home with their kids. In fact, the number of stay-at-home fathers has doubled according to the latest data. For many, remaining at home with children was thrust on them by the job market (or lack of) and for others it was because of illness. However, the fastest growing segment of the stay-at-home dads is the ones choosing to stay home and care for their children.
A new Pew Research Center report says that the recession contributed to the numbers going up. Stay-at-home moms still outnumber dads, but there really has been a societal change in the past few decades that lead to 2 million fathers staying home with children in 2012 according to Census data. By contrast, the figure was 1.1 million in 1989.
In the Pew report, the share of fathers who remained home minding kids because they themselves are ill or disabled dropped from over half of the at-home fathers in 1989 to about one-third in 2012. The dads who stay home with kids because they attend school, are retired or other reasons dropped only slightly in 25 years, from 25 to 22 percent. It is no surprise, however, that the share of fathers forced to stay home because of job loss jumped from 15 percent to about one-fourth of those minding the house.
Homebound fathers tend to be older, poorer or have less education that their counterpart fathers who work. According to the latest Pew data, half of the dads staying home with their kids are white, about 20 percent are of Hispanic and 16 percent black.
The Pew team did find a cultural difference in stay-at-home trends for women versus men. A large share of at-home mothers are foreign-born. However, at-home dads are split fairly evenly between immigrants and those born in the U.S.
While there is no dispute that the number of at-home fathers is growing, the actual number is in dispute, partly because the information collected about dads not at work is questionable. The Current Population Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, determined that a stay-at-home father is someone between 18 to 69 who reported living one or more kids under age 18 and has not worked for pay over the past year. This conflicts with the Census Bureau’s data, which limits the definition of at-home fathers to men living with children under age 15 who are the primary caretakers at home.
Some at-home father groups claim that the actual number of dads home caring for their children could be as high as 7 million. They typically include fathers who are primary caretakers, but may work part-time outside the home or do some work out of the house. Traditionally, women who meet these criteria during the daytime are viewed as stay-at-home mothers.
Clearly, the days when dads staying home with kids more or being the primary caregiver was depicted as an anomaly, such as in Mr. Mom or Kramer vs. Kramer or even Daddy Day Care. However, it will be clear that true equality has been achieved (and acceptance of step-parenting, grandparents raising children and gay couples with kids), if the statistics start to indicate stay at home parent or primary caregiver without attaching mom or dad to the label and focus on who cares for the kids.
By Dyanne Weiss