NEW YORK (AP) — The number of U.S. fathers home with their kids full-time is down, from a peak 2.2 million in 2010, the official end of the recession, to about 2 million in 2012, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
The slight decrease in their ranks from 2010 to 2012 was driven chiefly by employment gains since the recession eased, the report said, defining stay-at-home fathers as those not employed for pay at all in the prior year and living with children 17 or younger.
The largest share of at-home dads, 35 percent, said they were home due to illness or disability. Roughly 23 percent said it was mainly because they couldn't find a job, and 21 percent said it was specifically to care for home or family, the researchers noted, relying on census and other government data.
By contrast, 1.1 million men were at-home dads in 1989, the earliest year reliable government figures are available for the sector.
Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher who worked on the report, said fathers comprised 16 percent of parents at home full time in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1989.
The 21 percent who cited caring for home and children as the specific reason for being out of the for-pay work force was up from 5 percent in 1989 and 18 percent in 2007, the start of the recession, Livingston said.
While unemployment is a factor overall, Livingston said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., that the "continuing convergence of gender roles" between moms and dads is key.
"It's becoming more acceptable for dads to be caregivers, and it's becoming more acceptable for moms to be responsible for breadwinning," she said.
But Livingston warned that affluent, highly educated dads at home to raise children remain a subset.
"It's important to note that a lot of these dads are actually not doing that well economically and they tend to have lower income levels, too," she said.
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