The available statistics on stay-at-home dads are numerous, widely variable and most of them have glaring flaws due to a poorly formulated assumption about what is a stay-at-home dad.

STAY-AT-HOME DAD (Noun): A father who is the daily, primary caregiver of his children under age 18.

This is the definition the National At-Home Dad Network uses to define what is a stay-at-home dad and is what the public would generally agree is an accurate definition. It is very important to note that a stay-at-home dad is NOT defined by his employment status.

1.4 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (a number that has doubled over the last 10 years)

The most accurate count of stay-at-home dads was estimated at 1.4 million by Dr. Beth Latshaw in 2009. That number has likely increased based on trends from other sources (see below) to at least 1.75 million. In her study, she focuses on the role of the father, not their employment status:

Qualitative Insights into Stay At-Home Fatherhood

Beth Latshaw, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Appalachian State University, 2009

Summary: Found that the true number of at-home dads is at least 1.4 million. This study shows how the U.S. Census significantly undercounts the number of at-home dads by only counting those who are not in the labor force (see below). Latshaw found that most fathers who, by most societal definitions are “stay-at-home dads,” do in fact work part-time or opposite shifts from their spouse.

The National At-Home Dad Network believes this is the most accurate count of at-home dads. 

7 Million Fathers are Primary Caregivers

U.S. Census, 2011

The U.S. Census reports that 32% of married fathers (approximately 7 million dads) are “a regular source of care for their children under age 15, up from 26% from 2002.” The U.S. Census defines “regular care of children” as an arrangement that is consistent at least one day per week.

Some of these fathers would be considered “stay-at-home dads” by society’s definition. This large and increasing number of fathers as primary caregivers shows that parenting services are needed for both dads and moms.

 

Rising Number of Stay-At-Home Dads

Pew Research, 2014

Pew Research released a report in June of 2014 that found 2 million men to be stay-at-home dads. This was double the number they reported in 1989. Unfortunately, the numbers are based entirely on unemployment, defining stay-at-home dads as “men ages 18-69 who are living with their own children (biological, step or adopted) younger than 18, not employed for pay at all in the prior year.”

Certainly, some of these 2 million are truly stay-at-home dads. However, many are not, they are simply unemployed (there is a difference!) and the reason a lot of media attention focused on the high poverty rate associated with stay-at-home dads in this study. This is not an accurate reflection of the real population of stay-at-home dads.

One piece of this study that was extremely relevant, was the rise in dads CHOOSING to be stay-at-home parents. That number rose from 5% of all stay-at-home dads (or, honestly, unemployed dads) to 21%. This trend we have seen in multiple studies and expect to continue.

For a more detailed analysis of the Pew Research study on Stay-At-Home Dads, click here.

Other numbers on Stay-At-Home Dads

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specify a definition for “at-home dad” but many have used their table on “Married Couple: mother employed, not father” to determine the number of stay-at-home dads. As we have stated, employment status is NOT an accurate determination of the primary role of the parent. Many stay-at-home dads work (as many as 50% by our own estimates) and many unemployed dads are not taking on the role of caregiver.

These numbers, however, are closer to the real number of stay-at-home dads:

1.45 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2013 BLS)
1.50 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2012 BLS)
1.61 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2011 BLS)
1.75 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2010 BLS)
1.79 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2009 BLS)
1.32 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2008 BLS)
1.23 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2007 BLS)
1.20 Million Stay-At-Home Dads (2006 BLS)

 

U.S. Census (Families and Living Arrangements, Table FG8, Column H)

The U.S. Census defines “at-home dad” as a father not in the labor force for the past 52 weeks (this includes not looking for work or going to school) and who’s wife was in the labor force for the past 52 weeks (if she changes jobs and is out of work for a week or more, the father does not count as an at-home dad).

These are the numbers most widely reported as the number of stay-at-home dads in the U.S. They are also the MOST INACCURATE. For a detailed analysis of what is wrong with the assumptions by the U.S. Census, please read this piece from our friends at the Good Men Project.

214,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2013 U.S. Census)
189,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2012 U.S. Census)
176,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2011 U.S. Census)
154,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2010 U.S. Census)
158,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2009 U.S. Census)
140,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2008 U.S. Census)
165,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2007 U.S. Census)
159,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2006 U.S. Census)
143,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2005 U.S. Census)
147,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2004 U.S. Census)
98,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2003 U.S. Census)
106,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2002 U.S. Census)
81,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2001 U.S. Census)
93,000 Stay-At-Home Dads (2000 U.S. Census)

(To review these Census numbers go to Families and Living Arrangements and look for table FG8 in the detailed tables)

Demographics of Stay-At-Home Dads, coming soon!