Almost 1 in 5 Stay-At-Home Parents Are Dads

It’s interesting to see the trends and changes in the share of stay-at-home parents over the years. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the share of parents in the United States who are not employed for pay has remained fairly stable in the last five years. In 2021, 18% of parents didn’t work for pay, which was unchanged from 2016. However, there are differences in the share of stay-at-home parents between men and women, with 26% of mothers and 7% of fathers choosing to stay at home.

Looking at the data from 1989 to 2021, it’s clear that the share of stay-at-home parents has fluctuated, rising during periods of higher unemployment. Interestingly, while the share of mothers who were not employed for pay decreased slightly from 28% to 26% during this period, the share of fathers who were not working increased from 4% to 7%. These diverging trends have resulted in an increase in the proportion of stay-at-home dads, from 11% in 1989 to 18% in 2021.

When it comes to the reasons why parents choose to stay at home, there are differences between mothers and fathers. In 2021, the majority of stay-at-home moms (79%) cited taking care of the home or family as the reason for not working, while smaller shares mentioned being ill or disabled, unable to find work, retired, or being students. On the other hand, stay-at-home dads had more varied reasons for not working, with 23% staying home to care for the home or family, followed by reasons such as illness or disability, retirement, inability to find work, and going to school.

In terms of demographics, stay-at-home dads differ from dads who work for pay. Stay-at-home dads are less likely to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, with only 22% having this level of education compared to 42% of working dads. Additionally, stay-at-home dads tend to be more economically disadvantaged, with 40% living in poverty compared to only 5% of dads who work for pay. Stay-at-home dads also tend to be older, with 46% being aged 45 or older, compared to 35% of working dads.

Lastly, when it comes to race and ethnicity, stay-at-home dads are a more diverse group compared to working dads. Non-Hispanic White fathers make up half of stay-at-home dads but 60% of dads who work for pay. Non-Hispanic Black fathers have a larger share among stay-at-home dads (18%) compared to working dads (9%), while Hispanic fathers represent 21% of both groups, and non-Hispanic Asian fathers account for 7% of stay-at-home dads and 8% of working dads. It’s also worth noting that a majority of stay-at-home dads (68%) and dads who work for pay (85%) are married.

These trends highlight the various factors influencing parents’ decisions to stay at home or work outside the home, as well as the differences between stay-at-home dads and moms, and the implications for their education, economic status, and demographic characteristics.

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