There were up to two million “stay-at-home” fathers in 2012, up from 1.1 million in 1989.
The number of fathers who do not work outside the home has risen dramatically in recent years, according to a new Pew Research study.
There were up to two million “stay-at-home” fathers in 2012, up from 1.1 million in 1989, Pew reports. High unemployment rates around the time of the economic collapse and subsequent recession is a contributing factor to the increase, according to the study, but the biggest contributor to long-term growth of dads at home is the rising number of fathers who are at home primarily to care for their family or who are unable to find work
Most stay-at-home parents are mothers, but fathers represent a growing share of all at-home parents, 16 percent in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1989. Roughly a quarter of these at-home dads (23 percent) report they are home mainly because they cannot find a job, while 21 percent said the primary reason is to care for their home or family. The latter represents a fourfold increase from 1989, when only 5 percent of at-home dads said they were home mainly to care for family.
But more than one-third (35 percent) are at home due to illness or disability, Pew finds. This is in sharp contrast to stay-at-home mothers, three-fourths (73 percent) of whom report they are home specifically to care for their home or family. Just 11 percent are home due to their own illness or disability.
Whites are significantly more likely than blacks and Hispanics to be living with their children, as are fathers with higher levels of education.
Financially speaking, at-home dads are less well-off financially and have lower educational attainment than their working cohorts, Pew finds. At-home fathers are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma as working fathers (22 percent vs. 10 percent). Almost half (47 percent) are living in poverty, compared with 8 percent of working fathers.
The poverty figure is higher than for at-home mothers (34 percent). Pew attributes this, in part, to the fact that at-home fathers are less likely to have a working spouse than at-home mothers (50 percent vs. 68 percent) and are more likely to be ill or disabled than at-home mothers (35 percent vs. 11 percent).
Age is also a factor. At-home fathers tend to be older than at-home moms. Just one-fourth (24 percent) are less than 35 years-old and 43 percent are 45 years or older.
Choice or not, at-home dads do not receive the same support afforded at-home moms, Pew research finds. A 2013 survey found that 51 percent of respondents said children are better off if their mother is at home and doesn’t hold a job, while only 8 percent had a similar opinion about fathers. On the other hand, one-third (34 percent) of respondents said children are just as well off if their mother works compared with 76 percent who said the same about children with working fathers.
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Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.