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.