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Is Father’s Day Unfair?

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 17:  during an interleague MLB game between the Detroit Tigers and the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park on June 17, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Photograph by Getty Images

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and a new study by the National Retail Federation shows that on average, dads will be showered with $119.84 worth of dinners, gifts (hello brand-new grill!), and other dad-worthy goods.

Which sounds pretty sweet, right? The problem: Compare this to how much Americans splurge on moms, and it’s clear that dads are getting the short end of the stick. Americans cough up $168.94 on Mother’s Day, up 11 percent from last year. Spending on dad, in contrast, rose by less than three bucks. So, not only do dads get less on their big day, but also their stock isn’t skyrocketing.

Financial experts have various theories as to what’s behind what they call the “Father’s Day Spending Gap.” The most obvious may be that in general, hour for hour, moms still do a lot more mothering than dads do fathering at home. Even today, moms are typically the ones who make their kids their peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and ferry them to soccer practice. Even though more women are becoming the family breadwinners, they’re still clocking a “second shift” at home with the kids.

Another theory is that moms still cook more at home—so a fancy dinner out is probably in the cards on her big day. Men, in contrast, might be just as fine with a more low-maintenance option like sticking a steak on the grill. Yet another theory boils down to timing: Mother’s Day falls in May, a point in which the weather is just warming up, which could spark a spending splurge on flower bouquets and dinners on restaurant patios. Father’s Day, in contrast, falls in June, right when school graduations and summer plans are in full swing, diverting resources away from old pop. Whatever the reason, the take-home lesson is: Don’t scrimp on dad; he deserves a thank-you, too.

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