Michael Keaton was "Mr. Mom" in the 1883 film. / 20th Century Fox
In the run-up to Father's Day, a new report from the Pew Research Center documents the growing number of stay-at-home dads, but finds the reasons they're at home are a bit more complex than you think. For some, it's due to illness; others are unemployed; and still others, yes, simply want to be Mr. Mom.
"A lot of experts would say there has been gender convergence in terms of dads taking on caregiving and women taking on breadwinning in recent decades," said Gretchen Livingston, senior Pew researcher and author of the study.
Stay-at-home moms still outnumber stay-at-home dads by a wide margin, but the new study says the dad numbers are double what they were in 1989.
Nearly 2 million fathers reportedly stayed at home in 2012, according to the most recent Census data on the topic, compared to the 1.1 million in 1989. The largest number of fathers say their reason for staying at home is due to illness or disability. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of fathers who stay at home mainly to care for their family.
Stay-at-home fathers tend to be older than stay-at-home mothers, the Pew report said, with the majority of them being 35 or older. This may partially explain why such a large fraction are home due to illness or disability, the report said.
While illness or disability is the most cited reason for staying at home, the share has decreased dramatically over time, Livingston said. The share in 1989 was 56% compared to 2012's 35%.
"Part of it is due to the fact that more dads want to care for their family, and there has been an uptick in dads who stay at home due to joblessness," Livingston said. "The increases in those who are home to care for family have led to a decrease in the share who are home due to illness or disability."
The number of stay-at-home fathers reached an all-time high at 2.2 million in 2010, at the tail end of the Great Recession. The number has fallen slightly since then due to declines in unemployment, the Pew report said. In 2012, about 23% of stay-at-home fathers said their reasons for being at home was because they were unable to find work.
Many men who had lost their jobs during the recession reinvented themselves to be stay-at-home fathers, said Brad Harrington, executive director at the Boston College Center for Work & Family.
Among reasons given for staying home, the sharpest increase was among fathers saying they stay home to care for their family. In 1989, only 5% of stay-at-home fathers said they did it to care for their children. In 2012, it was 21%.
Researchers at the Boston College Center for Work & Family are seeing a shift in gender roles in terms of how people see the "caregiver" and "breadwinner" duties. While traditionally men were expected to be the sole breadwinner, spouses are starting to split home and work tasks more evenly in recent years.
Dual-career households are becoming more common, according to the 2013 Boston College report "The New Dad: A Work (and Life) in Progress," and a vast majority of fathers want to spend more time with their children on an average work day.
"I think it's a shift in cultural trend," said Fred van Deusen, a researcher at the Boston College center. "Probably the main factor is the expectation for fathers is changing. Women expect more involvement, men see peers becoming more involved, so it's kind of self-reinforcing."
Fathers are a growing share of stay-at-home parents, but mothers still constitute the majority. About 16% who stayed at home in 2012 were fathers compared to 84% who were mothers. However this is still a marked increase, compared to the 10% of stay-at-home fathers in 1989.
"The number has increased quite dramatically in a short amount of time, but it's important (to note) that the majority of stay-home parents continue to be moms," Livingston said.
Reasons that fathers stay at home
Caring for home and family ‚?? 21%
Unable to find employment ‚?? 23%
Ill or disabled ‚?? 35%
In school/retired/other ‚?? 22%
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