Monday, March 31, 2008

The Amazing Shifting Census Numbers

So for a long time I've been tracking one of the Census Bureau's measures of dad involvement: the number of children of employed moms who are cared for by fathers. It's not an "at-home dad" number, per se, but it's not a bad proxy. During prep for our Today Show segment on Wednesday, Aaron Rochlen stumbled on another apparent update on the number.

The number that has always interested me is the "Primary Child Care Arrangements of Preschoolers with Employed Mothers," which has bounced around a bit and not been a reliable piece of evidence showing more and more involved dads. I found at least three different numbers for the same stat in the same data release, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it. But for your number-crunching pleasure, here are the stats for the percentage of kids under 5 being cared for by dad while mom works as measured in spring 2005:

25 percent (press release)
18. 2 percent (detailed table 2b)
17.2 percent ("historical table")

Confused? Good. Because if you'll remember, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics put out the same dataset (the 2005 SIPP numbers) last year, and they concluded that 17.3 percent of preschoolers with employed moms were being watched by dad. As far as I can tell, this is all apples-to-apples, so I have no idea why we have the variation.

Do the discrepancies matter? Not to me. That's still a lot of kids being watched by a lot of dads. But if you understand demographics generally -- or the SIPP in particular -- and can explain it, I'm all ears.

(As always, the catalog of dad stats is available here.)

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