Thursday, July 19, 2007

Digging in the Census Stats Again

Back in the go-go 1990s, the U.S. Census Bureau had the number of at-home dads pegged at around 2 million. They did this by a pretty simple metric: they looked at full-time working moms and asked them who was minding the kids. Then, a few years ago, they turned to my much maligned (by me, anyway) technique of using labor stats to figure this all out, and the number of at-home dads dropped by a factor of 20. But I digress.

The 2 million figure was gathered by pulling numbers from a Census tool called the Survey of Income and Program Participation, or SIPP. But as best I have been able to tell, though SIPP continues, no one has bothered looking at that data in a few years. And I do not have the time to muck around with oodles of raw demographic data. So I assumed that there was no way to tell -- based on the SIPP data -- if at-home dad numbers are growing or not.

But yesterday, I stumbled into this chart, which shows SIPP data through 2005 (yay!). In the interest of full disclosure, however, it doesn't show much of an increase in the number of dads who are primary caretakers over the past 20 years. This seems to fly in the face of all of the other evidence I've seen, and I'm wondering if anyone smarter than I knows if there's any reason this SIPP information would tend to miss the rising number of dads doing the primary caretaker thing.

(Further adding to my confusion is that I can't get the new SIPP numbers to sync up with the SIPP numbers from this 2003 Census report or the 1997 Census report. It seems like we should be talking apples-to-apples, so I don't know why the numbers are all over the place.)

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