It sounds like an ironic twist on established gender roles, but the latest study by WalletHub looks at the way families can benefit when fathers are able to provide their time as well as their income.
Since 1960, many more fathers are likely to be raising children on their own, but the figure is still relatively low. Just 8% of U.S. households with children under 18 are led by a single father, up from 1% in 1960, according to a 2013 analysis by the Pew Research Center of data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey.
One trend that has increased more significantly is the number of working mothers. Both parents were working in more than 60% of married couples with kids in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moms and dads are increasingly splitting income earning and home making responsibilities, making a well-paying job imperative.
“Expectations for fathers are shifting from what they were 20-30 years ago. Fathers today – particularly those in dual-career couples – are expected to be more involved with caring for children; yet at the same time, traditional gender role norms – which associate men with work and women with home life – still persist and are resistant to change,” Beth Humberd, assistant professor of management and associate in the Center for Women & Work at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, said in the report.
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She noted that although paternity leave is becoming more prevalent, it doesn’t mean new fathers are encouraged to use it. “In fact, research has found that in many organizations, fathers face a stigma for utilizing some or all of the paternity leave they are offered,” she said.
According to the Department of Labor, just 12% of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave. Even though most dads will take time off for their child’s birth or adoption, 70% take 10 days or less.
Eric Olofson, associate professor of psychology at Wabash College, added that lack of access to paternity leave can set off a longer-term trend for dads who don’t learn basic child care skills early. “If they don’t gain those skills at the same time that mothers are, they may slowly become the back-up parent,” Olofson said in the report.
“Mothers’ issues are fathers’ issues, and vice versa,” he said. “Many researchers argue that expanding paid maternity leave can help dads spend more time with their children. When moms have to forfeit paychecks to stay home with a new baby, fathers are left needing to work extra hours to make ends meet. For modern fathers who want to spend more time bonding with their children, working extra hours is the last thing they want to do.”
Among the metrics WalletHub analyzed for the report were fathers’ income, unemployment and education, as well as the percentage living in poverty. Child care cost and quality were considered, as were key work-life balance indicators: parental leave policies, average hours worked per day and average commute times.
Overall health, as measured by uninsured rate, life expectancy and the incidence of various diseases like prostate cancer and heart disease, was also taken into account.
The study only analyzed data for dads who were still caring for minor children, so those with boomerang kids aren’t represented here. On the following pages, you’ll find the 10 worst and 10 best states, with their total score and ranking for each of the four categories.
Worst States for Working Dads
51. Nevada: 37.07
- Economic and Social Well-Being: 51
- Work-Life Balance: 23
- Child Care: 50
- Health: 45
50. Alaska: 42.89
- Economic and Social Well-Being: 36
- Work-Life Balance: 49
- Child Care: 49
- Health: 24
49. West Virginia: 43.39
- Economic and Social Well-Being: 44
- Work-Life Balance: 43
- Child Care: 43
- Health: 44
48. Mississippi: 43.51
- Economic and Social Well-Being: 42
- Work-Life Balance: 48
- Child Care: 38
- Health: 51