Friday, April 28, 2006

The Numbers Game, Continued

So Paul over at the-blog-to-be-formerly-named Family Man noted yesterday that we have new at-home dad numbers. He pulled from this Bureau of Labor Statistics release that showed the number of families with a mom in the workforce and a dad out of work. That number? 1,203,000, down from 1,300,000 last year.

Of course, just measuring the households in which mom goes to work and dad doesn't is a pretty poor snapshot of at-home dads. On the one hand, not all of those guys are doing the childrearing (we can assume that a lot of them are, but there's nothing in the data to shed light on that). On the flip side, looking at guys who aren't employed misses a lot of primary caregivers who work part-time/flex time. The same government data source suggests that more than 9 million dads work a flexible schedule. And there is another group of guys, about two million, who work part-time for "non-economic reasons," which includes childcare and family obligations.

So what does the 1.2 million number tell us? Very, very little. Of course, the number that the Census bureau likes to trumpet doesn't tell the story any better. My personal favorite standard for measuring at-home dads is this increasingly out-of-date publication that just asked go-to-work moms who was minding the kids. That result? For 2 million families, it was dad.

I think I'm done with my increasingly anemic efforts at Caitlin Flanagan-tracking, but I've leave you with a couple of final links. Slate did a nice bit on her, but it kind of converged on what seems to be the official media line on Flanagan (and one I'm happy to endorse): she's a brilliant writer who has flashes of great insight that are swamped by her incredible inconsistencies/hypocrisy/omissions/playacting.

You may also want to check out the half-hour interview she gave to an erstwhile professor of mine, Sree Sreenivasan on WNYC. (Or skip the 30-minute audio and just read the listener comments). It's interesting it its own way: 5 percent insight, 10 percent neotraditionalist preening, 85 percent non-sequitur-laced rants on politics, history and feminism, none of which made a lot of sense (I'm pretty sure that go-to-work mothers aren't responsible for the Iraq war). If Flanagan makes it as political commentator, I'm moving to Canada. I bet Toronto is lovely this time of year.

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