There were almost a million more stay-at-home dads in 2012 than there were in 1989. Though the recession and unemployment greatly contributed to this, the biggest contributor to long-term growth was the number of dads who stayed home to care for their families, according to a recent Pew study.
Pew defined a stay-at-home dad as: “those fathers not employed for pay at all in the prior year and living at home with their children younger than 18.”
“Father” was defined as: “men ages 18-69 who are living with their own children (biological, step or adopted) younger than 18.”
‘‘The assumption that a lot of people make is that the number of stay-at-home dads went up because of the recession,” Gretchen Livingston, author of the study, told The Boston Globe. “And while that’s absolutely true, even if you take out that trend altogether, the fact is, the number has been going up over time, regardless. And the biggest increase is in the share of fathers who want to stay home to take care of kids. That’s very striking.’’
According to Pew, in 1989, 56 percent of fathers surveyed were not working because they were ill or disabled, while in 2012 this dropped to 35 percent. In 1989, only 5 percent of fathers not working were doing so because they were home caring for their family, while in 2012 that number rose to 21 percent.
According to Pew in 1989, 10 percent of stay-at-home parents were fathers, while that number increased to 16 percent in 2012.
Though one would think that fathers “staying home” was becoming more accepted, a Pew study from 2013 seems to differ: 51 percent of people surveyed said children were better off with a mother at home, while only 8 percent said children were better off with a father at home.
Education seems to also be a factor in fathers who stay at home, according to Pew:
“At-home fathers are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma as working fathers (22 percent vs. 10 percent). And almost half (47 percent) of stay-at-home fathers are living in poverty, compared with 8 percent of working fathers. This poverty figure is even higher than among stay-at-home mothers (34 percent of whom are in poverty), and may be due, in part, to the fact that stay-at-home fathers are far less likely to have a working spouse than stay-at-home mothers (50 percent vs. 68 percent) and are more likely to be ill or disabled than stay-at-home mothers (35 percent vs. 11 percent).”
This increase in stay-at-home dads has prompted the creation of organizations, such as The National At-Home Dad Network and a Boston-specific organization, the Boston Dad’s Group (which is not just for stay-at-home dads, but for all dads.)
Pew’s full report on the study can be found here.