There is a big societal shift in attitudes toward gender roles and parenting taking place, as more dads are staying at home and tending to childcare. According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 2.1 million fathers were stay-at-home dads in 2021—up 8% since 1989. The increase is attributed, in large part, to women out-earning their male partners.
As more college-educated and advanced-degreed women enter the workforce, there has also been a surge in dual-income families. With the rise of remote and flexible work models, it is becoming more common for fathers to work from home and take care of the children, while still contributing to the family income. Some have forsaken their careers to focus on child-rearing and maintaining the daily household chores. Others take on gig assignments and contract work to supplement income.
As women increasingly earn more money than men, they become the sole breadwinners in some households. Since the 1990s, women have surpassed men in receiving a bachelor’s degree each year. The number of women pursuing higher education continually increased over the last 40 years. The numbers outpace men in both college enrollment and graduation.
Caregiving costs have dramatically escalated, making it less financially worthwhile to have both parents working outside the home. When you factor in the costs of hiring a nanny, sending your children to daycare and elderly care with the expenses of commuting back and forth to an office, it makes sense for one parent to opt out of the workforce and stay home.
Dads Are Becoming More Engaged With Child-Rearing
Over the last 50 years, fathers have become more active parents. In 2016, fathers self-reported spending about eight hours a week on childcare. This amount of time was roughly three times what a dad spent with their children in 1965. Dads reported engaging in around 10 hours a week on household chores, an uptick of four hours compared to 1965. Mothers in 2016 spent an average of 14 hours a week on childcare and around 18 hours per week on housework.
Fathers are doing more at home for several reasons, including women’s steadily increasing advancement at work and in education that doesn’t leave time to do many chores, rapid shifts in economic trends that include a more tech, digital and service-based job market and the erosion of male-dominated manufacturing jobs in the U.S due to automation and globalization. The Great Recession caused large-scale unemployment due to the financial crisis, leading to 2.2 million U.S. fathers becoming stay-at-home dads. Once they lost their jobs, it was hard for many people to get back into the corporate world.
Men Falling Out Of The Workforce
Similar to the financial-crisis era, many men left the workforce during the pandemic and have not returned. As of last month, over 7 million men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working or looking for work.
The economy and job market have changed. Few jobs are available in once-considered male-oriented industries, such as manufacturing, factory work and construction. Consequently, with fewer options and the inability to find suitable work in their field, they elect to leave the job market.
A major challenge or barrier in the job market that men are confronting is discrimination for lack of formal education. For example, men who do not have a college degree may face difficulties obtaining well-paying, white-collar jobs. Feeling discouraged, some men opt out of the job market rather than accept low-paying, unstable work.
According to the Wall Street Journal, over the last five years, men have been dropping out of school at an alarming rate, accounting for the 71% enrollment decline at colleges and universities. Left unaddressed, this trend could have lasting repercussions for men. Education, degrees and credentials are valued in the future workforce, as educational attainment correlates with more positive employment outcomes.
The decline in labor force participation among middle-aged men runs across all racial groups and is heavily concentrated among men who lack a four-year college degree. Economists partly cite the slow or lacking return of men to the labor force to the war on crime in the 1980s and 1990s, which caused more men to hold criminal records, making it harder for them to get a job. Opioid addiction across America has resulted in people withdrawing from the labor force. As video games dramatically improved in quality and streaming services were brought to market, it has become too easy and comfortable to stay at home. The 1950s notion of the nuclear family with the man as the head of the household is no more.
Men of a certain age who were laid off during the financial crisis, then lost their jobs again 10 years later during the pandemic and are now downsized in today’s uncertain environment find themselves undesirable by companies. It’s harder when companies in nearly all sectors are announcing layoffs, hiring freezes and withdrawing offers. Some men complain that they are victims of ageism. When they have a chance to hire, businesses that are cutting costs prefer to offer the role to a younger person who will be compensated substantially less than a 40-plus-year-old man.