Stay-at-Home Dads: A Departure from Generations Past

stay-at-home dad, parenting, Illinois family law attorneyAccording to Professor Karen Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in the 1970’s, less than ten American men identified as stay-at-home dads. Not less than ten percent. Less than ten men. In fact, according to Kramer’s research, the number may have been closer to six. In 2014, the number of stay-at-home dads was estimated to be around 1.9 million, not only a staggering difference from 40 years ago, but as much as 16 percent of all stay-at-home parents in the country. There are, of course, a number of factors that contribute to the evolution of stay-at-home parenting for men, including unemployment and disability, but many simply have the choice to be home with the children and seize the opportunity.

Defining a SAHD

The U.S. Census Bureau is normally responsible for gathering demographic information on stay-at-home caregivers, including stay-at-home moms, or SAHMs, and stay-at-home dads, or SAHDs. However, the Census Bureau does not include dads in same-sex relationships, single dads, or dads of children older than 15 as eligible for consideration as SAHD. The Pew Research Center, on the other hand, reviewed the census data while looking differently at the information. When considering any father at home with children 18 or younger in the same household, Pew found that nearly 2 million men are now stay-at-home dads, down slightly from the all-time high of 2.2 million men in 2010, at the end of the last recession.

Economic Factors

The ability to find work, for some men, certainly plays into the decision to stay home; in some cases, it really is not even a choice. This was particularly true between 2008 and 2010, as unemployment numbers spiked around the country, making profitable work more difficult to find. Even today, states with higher unemployment rates tend to also have higher concentrations of SAHDs. There are exceptions, though. In South Dakota, for example, where the unemployment rate is well below the national average, 39 percent of all stay-at-home parents are dads, by far the highest such percentage in the country. By comparison, men comprise just 13 percent of the stay-at-home parent population in Illinois.

Caregivers by Choice

Despite the economic challenges that still exist in certain regions, more than one fifth of stay-at-home dads are home by choice, Pew’s research found. While 23 percent say they cannot find work, roughly the same percentage—21 percent—indicate that caring for their family is the primary reason for staying home. Of course, such numbers could reflect a hesitance on the part of some men to admit they cannot find work, but when compared to the five percent who chose to stay home in 1989, there is little question that serious social changes have taken place.

Challenges in Divorce

As with any stay-at-home parent, a stay-at-home dad is particularly vulnerable in the event of divorce, possibly even more so. Courts and family judges are not generally accustomed to making considerations for SAHDs, despite the law’s gender-neutral intentions. Fortunately, Attorney Donald J. Cosley is an experienced Rolling Meadows family lawyer who understands the difficulties that stay-at-home dads face in divorce. Our team is prepared to help you every step of the way, ensuring your rights are fully protected and that your contributions to the family are properly recognized. Call 847-253-3100 today for a free, confidential consultation.



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