How many stay-at-home dads are there in the U.S.? Why does it matter?
TO be candid, the statistics were always something on my radar – I knew they were increasing – but the actual statistics did not fascinate me. Brian Reid, of the blog Rebel Dad, presented the numbers behind the at-home dad phenomenon and why they matter. Now, I am more interested.
At the national at-home dads convention, Reid, a legend in the conversation on involved fatherhood, reviewed some of the more well known statistics regarding stay-at-home dads. The census bureau published the number at 158,000 in 2009. What’s in this number? Dads out of the labor force for at least a full year and NOT looking for work…dads who are not working part-time, temping, or doing seasonal work (ie. the at-home dad who works for 30 hours only during X-mas week to help out his local shop as well as the at-home dad who works in a school 2X per week like me are NOT in this number), and dads with a wife who has been in the labor force for a full year (i.e. if your breadwinning wife was on maternity leave for a few months this year, these SAHD’s are NOT in the number).
Based on the inclusions and exclusions, Reid concludes that “the true number of at-home dads in the U.S. is somewhere between 158,000 and 2 million.” A significant spread. So, why are the numbers so important?
Reid hit his stride, put his educator hat on and delved into the concept of Social Proof. He explained that in this day & age, we don’t have the time to do research, so we follow the masses on what everyone else is doing…because we assume it must be good (ie launch of new iPhone with lines out the door). This makes a lot of sense! Therefore, based on the social proof, if the number were closer to 2 million stay-at-home dads, society might find at-home daddying to be more acceptable…so more families might be more inclined to follow the herd (makes the decision easier because everyone else is doing it) and decide for dad to stay home and be the primary caregiver.
Wikipedia’s more lengthy definition: Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed. Since observation of others usually provides only inconclusive information about what behavior is most profitable, the term ‘informational social influence’ is superior. Social influence in general can lead to conformity of large groups of individuals in either correct or mistaken choices, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as herd behavior. Although informational social influence at least in part reflects a rational motive to take into account the information of others, formal analysis shows that it can cause people to converge too quickly upon a single choice, so that decisions of even large groups of individuals may reflect very little information (see information cascades).
So, let’s conclude that the number of at-home dads is closer to 2 million:)…unless of course you have another wrinkle to add to the discussion?
I appreciate what Brian is saying here but why are we shooting for the stay-at-home parent of either sex and not for two-earner, two-parent homes?
It think these are healthiest for children over the long run. If this were indeed the “social proof” this would then cause the marketplace to change to respect parenting.
So basically when the numbers don’t go the way you want, just ignore them? If men who work part time can still be counted as stay at home dads, then women who work part time can be counted as stay at home moms, and since there are a lot more women who work part time, the number of stay at home moms would rise dramatically. And I’m sure you don’t want that do you?
@McVey – Do you think that mom’s that earn a little money hosting Tupperware parties or pick up some seasonal work at Walmart to make some money durring the holidays isn’t a stay-at-home mom? Because men who make any money are not considered stay-at-home dads in the census numbers. I spend a couple hours a month updating web sites when the kids are asleep. I make maybe a $100 a month. My primary duties is as a stay-at-home dad, but I am not counted in the census because I made some money. This is not about ignoring numbers that “don’t go the way you want,” but it is trying to figure out what an accurate number is for stay-at-home dads and for dads as primary care givers.