More Dads Are Staying at Home, But Mostly for Unhappy Reasons

MR. MOM, Frederick Koehler, Michael Keaton, 1983.
Photo: 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

The ranks of stay-at-home dads are apparently increasing. Moms are still much more likely to stay at home, but the percentage of fathers watching their kids during the day is growing, a new report from Pew Research shows. But this isn’t necessarily good news.

In 1989, just 10 percent of at-home parents were fathers; in 2012, that percentage had grown to 16 percent. The survey found that 21 percent of stay-at-home dads said they’re not working because they’re caring for their home or family; that’s up from 5 percent in 1989.

But most of the fathers (35 percent) who stay at home are there because of disability or illness, and 23 percent are at home because they can’t find work. Overall, stay-at-home dads are less educated and poorer than working fathers, and 47 percent of at-home dads are living in poverty, compared to 8 percent of working fathers. While it’s tempting to imagine this increase in stay-at-home dads as a purely joyful world of boo-boo kissing and play-date coordinating, things aren’t quite so rosy.

The Bad News About the Stay-At-Home Dad Uptick