WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The number of “stay-at-home dads” doubled in the past two decades to more than 2 million in 2012, with the largest number seen in poor families’ whose fathers are staying at home because they are ill or disabled.
A new Pew Research Center study finds that almost 2 million fathers are staying at home, a number which nearly doubled from 1.1 million in 1989 – and nearly half of those men live in poverty. And while mothers still represent a larger percentage of parents staying at home, fathers are increasingly caring for their families for reasons ranging from an inability to find work (23 percent) to those who are ill or disabled, at 35 percent.
The fastest-growing group among stay-at-home fathers is the percentage of men who say they are at home specifically to provide child care. Five percent said that in 1989, and 21 percent say it today. About half of stay-at-home fathers are white, and black fathers are twice as likely as white men to be home with their children.
Nearly one-quarter of fathers are staying at home because they are unable to find work, an 8 percent increase from 1989. And although the largest percentage of fathers are staying at home due to disability or illness, this number has decreased by nearly 20 percent – 56 percent to 35 percent – in the past two decades.
Less education and poor financial situations are significantly characteristic for families with stay-at-home fathers.
At-home fathers are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma as working fathers, at 22 versus 10 percent.
Almost half (47 percent) of stay-at-home fathers are living in poverty, compared with just 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,” reads the Pew report.
“The largest share of stay-at-home dads are actually home because they’re ill or disabled,” Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at Pew, tells NPR. “So that could be contributing to their low income, obviously.”
The increase in stay-at-home fathers sits parallel to another recent trend: a rising number of fathers who do not live with their children, which is about 16 percent.
“Whites are significantly more likely than blacks and Hispanics to be living with their children,” reads the Pew report. “Fathers with higher levels of education are also more likely than less educated dads to be living with their kids.”
The Census Bureau data reflects that there are only 214,000 stay-at-home fathers in the U.S., but the bureau’s definition is narrow, showing mostly married men who reported being home for the entire year to care for their children.