09 June 2014

Number of Stay-at-Fathers on the Rise: US Study

The Pew Research Center, an American think tank based in Washington DC, has just published an important new study, "Growing Number of Dads Home with the Kids: Biggest Increase Among those Caring for Family" (PDF) comparing demographic data obtained in 1989 and 2012.

Although the study is an easy read and clocks in at a modest 15 pages, here are the highlights of their findings:
· Fathers made up 16% of all stay-at-home parents in 2012, up from 10% in 1989. These fathers said that they are mainly at home because:
· they are ill or disabled (35%, down from 56% in 1989), 
· they cannot find a job (23%, up from 15% in 1989), and 
· they are caring for their home or family (21%, up from 5% in 1989).
· At-home fathers are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma than fathers working outside the home. 
· 47% of at-home fathers are living in poverty, compared to 34% of at-home mothers. 
· 50% of at-home fathers have a working spouse, compared to 68% of at-home mothers.
The Center also polled the views of the public on stay-at-home parents:
· 51% said that children are better off if their mother is home and doesn't have a job, compared to 8% who said that children are better off if their father is at home and doesn't have a job. 
· 34% said that children are just as well off if their mothers work, compared to 76% who said that children are just as well off if their fathers work.
On the whole these results aren't too terribly surprising. They reflect traditional social expectations of the different household roles played by men and women, but also that these values are beginning to soften, with more fathers being stay-at-home parents and more of those fathers choosing the role in order to care for family. It would be interesting to look at the extent to which this trend correlates with women's economic opportunities and employment incomes.


  1. Well it makes sense doesn't it? Women are probably getting more jobs, and filling the bread-winner role because they don't need to be paid as much. What is it, like 60¢ for every dollar a man makes in Canada? A pretty good hiring incentive for employers, don't you think?

    Maybe it's time for you lawyers to fix things again. Why don't you and your colleagues start going after all these scrupulous employers to raise women's earning potential?

    1. Lawyers would normally address situations like this by representing clients in human rights claims alleging sex discrimination in the payment of wages, and I assume they do so when there's enough evidence to suggest that sex discrimination is what is going on. The problem with human rights cases is that they are a case-by-case sort of thing, and there isn't case that would resolve the issue for all employers and all employees. Remember that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms only protects against discrimination by the state, not by private employers.

      If there were a "fix," it's in the hands of our MLAs and MPs. They're the ones with the power to pass new laws and regulations that would affect all employers, or groups of employers, and require them to change their wage structures.

    2. I never did really understand this line of thinking. If I could hire a woman rather than a man for a given role at 60% of the man's wage, why do any men have jobs? If I were industrious, I would have a company filled with women making a lower wage than equally qualified men and make a great deal of money.