The number of children living apart from their fathers has more than doubled in the last fifty years, from 11 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2010.
That’s one of the key findings from a new report on fatherhood in the United the States that was released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project--just in time for Father’s Day.
The findings paint a grim picture of many fathers’ lack of involvement in their children’s lives, using data from over 10,000 people to determine the percentage of "absent" or “non-resident” fathers in America, which the report defines as those who do not live with their children.
A decline in marriage rates may be partially to blame. In 1960, 72 percent of the adult population was married; that share had dropped to 52 percent by 2008. Eighty seven percent of children ages 17 and younger were living with two married parents in 1960 compared with 64 percent in 2008.
According to the report’s co-author Gretchen Livingston, an increase in divorce rates over the last half-century may also play a role.
“We see that the share of children living apart from their dads has more than doubled from 11 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2008, and at that same we see that three-fold increase in divorce,” she said. “Clearly the trends fit together.”
Here, some of the most interesting findings.
Fathers with higher incomes are less likely to live apart from their children than those who make less money. Only 15 percent of fathers with an annual family income of $50,000 or more live apart from a child, compared with 38 percent of fathers with incomes between $30,000 and $49,000 and 39 percent of those with incomes below $30,000.
Fathers' education is linked to his likelihood of being married to the mother of his children. Forty percent of fathers with less education than a high school diploma are married to their kids' mother, compared to 50 percent of fathers who graduated high school. A whopping 83 percent of fathers with at least a bachelor's degree are married to the mother of their children.
Age influences a father's likelihood of being married to the mother of his children. Dads ages 20-24 are married to their children's mother only 26 percent of the time, compared with 47 percent of dads ages 25-29 and 58 percent of fathers ages 40-44. Nevertheless, more than half of fathers ages 20-24 (53 percent) and 25-29 (62 percent) are in either a marital or cohabitating relationship with the mother of their children.
Over half (55 percent) of fathers are married to the mother of all of their children, and an additional 7 percent of fathers are cohabitating with the mother of all of their children. The remaining 38 percent are not living with or married to the mother of their children for a variety of reasons, which may include divorce, having children with more than one woman, and child abandonment.
The percentage of fathers living apart from their children varies among different races and ethnic groups. Black fathers are more than twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from their children (44 percent vs. 21 percent), and Hispanic fathers fall in the middle (35 percent). According to Livingston, this ethnic and racial breakdown somewhat correlates with divorce rates among those groups. "Whites do have lower divorce rates and they are less likely to live apart from their kids; blacks do have higher divorce rates and they are more likely to live apart from their kids," she said. "But with Hispanics, they actually have relatively low divorce rates but you see that they are more likely to live apart from their kids than whites." Furthermore, black fathers are far less likely than white fathers to be married to the mother of their children--36% compared to 59%. Hispanics fall in the middle, with 50% of fathers married to the mothers of their children.
Absent dads have varying levels of communication with their children. While four in ten non-resident dads say they are in touch with their children several times a week, and one in five visit their children more than once a week, most have far more infrequent communication. One-third of non-resident fathers say they talk or exchange e-mail with their kids less than once a month, and 27 percent say they have not seen their children at all in the past year.