Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Tuesday July 26th, 2016, 10:52am

New Research Explores The 'State Of America's Fathers'

Although fathers in the United States have increased their time spent on child care and housework in recent years, they are still doing much less than mothers, according to a report on the "State of America's Fathers."

"Fathers are taking on more child care and domestic work than ever before - and they say they want to do more - but we still have a long way to go" toward achieving gender equality in parenting, reads the report released last month by Promundo and the MenCare campaign.

The research, being billed as the first comprehensive report on U.S. fatherhood, is largely based on data from the Families and Work Institute's National Study of the Changing Workforce.

Among the key findings, 81 percent of employed parents who have a spouse or partner and a child under the age of 18 live in dual-income households. On the flip side, 19 percent of such parents live in single-income households. 

"The gender-based boundaries between caregiving and breadwinning have begun to crumble," the report explains, "and today's dual-career, dual-carer parents demand new policies that support them."

Over the past three decades, there has been a 65 percent increase in the time U.S. fathers spend with their children during the workday, the report states. 

Despite this increase, mothers in households with children under the age of six still report spending an average of 66 minutes a day on child care, compared to an average of 26 minutes spent by fathers. 

"Many men tend to cede most responsibility for family health care practices - arranging doctor visits, communicating with pediatricians and other medical staff - to female partners or family members," the report reads. "But these and other caregiving acts which take place outside the home (parent-teacher conferences, recitals, check-ups, soccer practices, etc.) are nonetheless essential components of child care, and show how the gendering of certain care acts takes place not just within the closed doors of a family home, but also in society at large."

There are now about 2 million full-time stay-at-home dads. By comparison, there were only six self-identified stay-at-home dads in the 1970s, according to U.S. Census data cited in the report.

"In recent years, the number of stay-at-home dads has grown, both because that choice is becoming more socially accepted and because, for some, high unemployment and slow recovery from the recession have left little choice," the report authors wrote. 

When it comes to U.S. attitudes toward parenting roles, the report notes that 40 percent of men today hold the view that "it is much better for everyone involved if the man earns the money and the woman takes care of the home and children." Back in 1977, 74 percent of men agreed with that statement. 

The wide-ranging report on fatherhood argues that U.S. policies fall short in terms of supporting "all parents, especially low-income fathers, to be involved substantively in their children's lives."

Guaranteeing paid leave nationwide for new mothers and fathers and providing "the poorest fathers and families with a living wage, a reformed justice system, and additional services that encourage and support their caregiving" are among the policy recommendations. 

"What our report and our new data show is this: women and men want the policies and the support so that all parents can be full-on, fully engaged, fully equal caregivers," said Promundo President and CEO Gary Barker. "We also confirm that implementing paid leave is far less costly than often thought, and that when implemented alongside income support to low-income fathers and parents, these policies pay for themselves in increased productivity and happier, healthier families. What are we waiting for?"


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