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Number of Stay-at-Home Dads Doubles in the Last 25 Years

Stay at home dads doubles in the last 25 years
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Last month, we told you about a recent stay-at-home-dads study conducted by the University of Illinois. The word then was that the number of stay-at-home dads was steadily declining and that their resurgence during the recession years was leveling out now that more jobs were available.

But that may have not been the whole story.

This week, the folks at the Pew Research Center have released some interesting (and conflicting) stats on the stay-at-home-dad trend. While the numbers may have leveled out in the last few years, when you look at the last 25 years, stay-at-home dads are kind of a big deal. In fact, while there were just 1.1 million of them back in 1989, by 2012 this number had doubled to 2.2 million.

When looking at the entire landscape of American stay-at-home parents, 16% are dads, and 84% are mothers. Compare that to 1989, when 10% were dads and 90% were mothers, and you can clearly see the shift happening.

According to experts, the rise in SAHDs in the last two decades or so is largely due less to economic issues (which really have only impacted the trend since 2007) and more to do with shifting social norms. After all, the stigma of a SAHD sure isn't what it used to be when we were kids.

Pew experts also reason that over time, the willingness of men to be the primary caregiver has significantly increased, which has impacted their decision to stay home. One in five stay-at-home dads (21%, or 425,000 dads) say the main reason they’re home is to care for their home and family. But back in 1989, just 5% of them cited that as their reason, which is a four-fold increase.

But still, there are other sides to this: A good portion of stay-at-home dads really are home simply because they can’t find a job. According to Pew, roughly 23% of stay-at-home dads said this is why they were home, which had risen from 15% who said the same thing in 1989. In addition, the study found that much like stay-at-home moms, stay-at-home fathers tend to be less secure financially and less educated.

This factoid was also pretty alarming: Pew’s report shows that about half (or 47%) of stay-at-home dads are officially poor, compared with just 8% of working dads (or any dad who has worked within the last year). The percentage of stay-at-home moms who have dipped below the poverty line is also disturbingly high, but it is actually considerably lower, at 34%.

When it comes to race, the study found that black fathers who live with their kids are the most likely to be stay-at-home fathers, when compared with Hispanic, Asian-American and white dads. This was in part linked to higher joblessness rates.

You can read more from the study's results in the Pew Research Center's full report.

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