Monday, March 02, 2009

It's Stat Time Again! (At-Home Dad Numbers Drop)

Before I get into the Census Bureau's estimates for the number of at-home dads in 2008, I need to acknowledge the fact that I totally missed the estimate for 2007. For some reason, I never saw the number, which was buried in this Excel spreadsheet. I don't feel terrible about it; the Census Bureau apparently completely missed the number, too. So ... even though it is a year late, lets get a drumroll. The number of at-home dads in 2007 was ...


That's 6,000 more than 2006 number, a modest 4 percent rise, and the highest figure ever.

But ...

The 2008 stats are now out, and they are less, ahem, robust. According to the Census Bureau, 140,000 guys were staying home with the kids in 2008. Let me put that in historical context:

2008: 140,000
2007: 165,000
2006: 159,000
2005: 143,000
2004: 147,000
2003: 98,000
2002: 106,000
2001: 81,000
2000: 93,000
1999: 71,000
1998: 90,000

So you're probably saying "Whoa! what the hell is going on here?" As am I. Here is my honest answer: looking closely at the numbers, the number of "all married couples with kids under 15" (the group from which the Census Bureau plucks the at-home dad numbers) is down more than 1 million between 2007 and 2008. The official explanation for this is that the Boomer kids are finally out of the house, and us Gen Xer and Gen Yers are waiting longer on having kids, so the number of parents capable of staying home is down big (more than 5 percent). This suggests that a bunch of at-home dads are now essentially empty nesters. (This would explain the huge, 200,000 drop in at-home moms, too.) This strikes me as suspect, but I'm no demographer, so draw your own conclusions.

This statistical blip is happening on top of all of the other statistical blips that make the current way of calculating at-home parents so dumb. This nutty economy will only exacerbate the difference between "official" at-home dads and the growing number of guys who are doing the gig. 

Lost your job in February and been staying home since? You're not counted (you have to be out of the labor force for 52 weeks). Quit on Christmas Day, 2007 but consult a couple of days a month? You're not counted either (you're not technically out of the labor force). Fired in 18 months ago and going to night school? You're probably not counted (you have to out of the labor force specifically caring for your family). Did your spouse loose her job, only to find another one 3 weeks later? You're not counted. And don't even get me started on divorced dads, gay dads or unmarried fathers.

I've always thought these are bogus numbers, but I take what I'm given. As always, the full accounting of the various ways of describing the at-home dad population are on my at-home dads stats page.

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