Thursday, July 07, 2005

counting dads

Over at the Family Scholars Blog, Elizabeth Marquardt posted this in reference to this Times-Dispatch article about dads.

The article gave the following stats: Four in 10 married men who didn’t work last year stayed home so they could raise their children, according to the Employment Policy Foundation, a Washington public-policy group. Two decades ago, less than 3 percent did.

EM wrote: These “there are more and more stay at home dads” stories pop up routinely — usually free of any data at all. This time the story offers the amazing piece of information that 40% of unemployed married fathers are stay-at-home dads by choice. What is that, like .02% of the male population?

Here's my response (Hat tip to RebelDad, where I got the links to the stats I needed)

Elizabeth, I guess being part of a "small but growing number" of at-home dads is better than being one of "a small but dying breed."

Good numbers for at-home dads are hard to get. The Census Bureau will only count someone as an at home dad if he has remained out of the labor force for the past year. In 1994, I quit work to raise my children, and haven't really re-entered the workforce. I've never thought of myself as unemployed. My first year, I had no outside income. In some other years, I taught a dozen or so Saturday classes. Yeah, I'm talking about 60 hours for the entire year, but that would be enough for me to be considered working, and not "at home" according to the Census guidelines. So Census would have counted me as an at-home dad only one of the ten years I was "at home."

According to this USA Today article, the Census Bureau estimates that there are 98,000 at-home dads -- according to their strict standard.

This Detroit News article looks at a different set of stats: the number of two-parent families where mom is the sole breadwinner: 2 million in the U.S., 64,000 in Michigan alone.

Having been involved with other at-home dads for the past decade, and knowing that there were other guys before me, I find the endless stream of "Oh look, we just found a new trend" articles to be kind of annoying. Yeah, do a Google search and you'll find that I participated in a few of these in the 90s. the seductive power of media attention, but also due to the fact that most at-home dads feel like pioneers because we're isolated.

But not everywhere. When I moved to St. Paul, I found that I had peers. The guy across the street. One around the corner. Another three blocks away. Another 6 blocks away. The number of at-home moms in the same area is much greater, of course.

Getting back to my issue with the Census; none of these neighborhood dads would have counted as at-home, because they all had some outside income, even though all of the moms worked 40-plus hour jobs and none of them used daycare. One guy did carpentry during the summer while his wife, a schoolteacher, stayed home with the kids. Another guy worked very part-time for a non-profit advocacy group. My neighbor is a musician and worked the occasional Friday or Saturday night gig. And the fourth was a part-time pastor to a very small congregation which was preparing to close.

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