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A Slow Economy Can Increase Child Care Provided by Fathers

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Changes in the use of father-provider child care is often related to changes in the family and the economy. The recent recession was particularly difficult for men. Men had higher jobless rates than women because of steep losses in the manufacturing and construction industries. The more time fathers have available to care for children, the more likely they are to do so.

New data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation indicates that in the spring of 2010, a third of fathers with an employed wife provided a regular source of care for their preschoolers. This is an increase from 29 percent in 2005, when the economy was relativity stronger.

A father’s involvement in child care tends to be shaped by his employment characteristics. For example, a father’s employment status can determine whether he provides child care while his wife is working. Among married fathers with preschoolers in 2010, a greater percentage of fathers who were not employed cared for their young children than did employed fathers (54 percent compared with 17 percent).

The amount and shift that a father works can often determine his ability to take care of children. Married fathers who work part time are much more likely to be a primary child care provider than are fathers who work full time — 34 percent of fathers compared with 16 percent. The time of day a father works is also an important factor. Married fathers who worked evening or night shifts were twice as likely to be the primary child care provider during the mothers’ work hours than fathers who worked day shifts (28 percent and 14 percent, respectively).

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