Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Painful Way to Create a New Army of At-Home Dads

Twenty years ago, the idea of at-home dads as an actual social phenomenon worth measuring and studying emerged, and demographers started trying to count the SAHD numbers. The early efforts were based on surveys of working women, and the numbers that came out of those early surveys suggested that at-home fatherhood -- though more significant than anyone imagined -- was not a runaway social revolution. Instead, it appeared that at-home dad numbers moved with the economy. Bad periods of time for the U.S. economy, such as 1991, were correlated with spikes in the number of dads at home.

The census folks count the number of at-home dads differently now, meaning that the economic tailspin probably won't juice at-home dad numbers much more than they're already juiced (the growth of men staying home continues to be strong for a dozen non-economic reasons).

Instead, we're likely to see more and more anecdotal reports of guys who have been laid off and taking some time to re-connect with family (particularly if they're the kind of guys who accumulated a nest egg). These have already started trickling in -- you should read this wsj.com piece by ex-Lehman Bros SVP Spencer Cutter, if you haven't already -- and I suspect we'll see a lot more first-person pieces from guys who never expected to doing the kid duty. I'll post more as I see them.

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