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Thursday July 30th, 2015 4:04AM

Study: # of stay-at-home dads down slightly since recession

By The Associated Press
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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> By contrast, 1.1 million men were at-home dads in 1989, the earliest year reliable government figures are available for the sector.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> "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.<br /> <br /> But Livingston warned that affluent, highly educated dads at home to raise children remain a subset.<br /> <br /> "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.<br /> <br /> And despite a greater acceptance of dads staying home to raise kids, other Pew research shows 51 percent of the public believes kids are better off when the mother stays home, compared to 8 percent that cited dads.<br /> <br /> "There clearly has been a lot of gender convergence in recent decades, but then at the same time, you know, some things haven't changed as far as people's perceptions of the roles," Livingston said.<br /> <br /> Mike Brandfon, 48, of Chicago falls into the laid-off category. He lost his job at a mid-size public relations company in December 2009, at a period when he and his wife had been thinking about having kids.<br /> <br /> "I was looking for jobs but we just happened to get pregnant with twins at the right time, as far as me being able to stay home with them since I couldn't find a job," he said.<br /> <br /> After the girls were born in October 2010 and his spouse's four-month maternity leave ended, her marketing job allowed them to just make ends meet.<br /> <br /> "It was quite a shock, to say the least," he said of remaining out of the for-pay work force. "You don't think about it in that sense when you're going through it. You just try to get through each day and each moment."<br /> <br /> Brandfon joined a dads' group for park outings with the kids and the occasional night out for a beer. Once the girls were nearly 3 years old, he began looking for work again and landed a job last September as media director for Web2carz.com, an online-only auto and lifestyles magazine.<br /> <br /> In the end, he was thrilled with his time home as primary caregiver.<br /> <br /> "I couldn't get those years back," he said. "Looking back, it was amazing, seeing these little things develop into real people."
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