Census Burea takes snapshot of American Fathers

Friday, June 18, 2004

Will you be able to spend time with your father this Father's Day? Yes, there are 66.3 million fathers in the United States, according to unpublished data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

But that doesn't mean you should take your father for granted.

Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., didn't. That's why she thought up the celebration while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909.

She wanted to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran, who raised his six children by himself on a rural farm.

Accordingly, Spokane's mayor chose June for the first Father's Day because it was the month of William Smart's birth.

The first presidential proclamation didn't come until President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday as June in Father's Day, however, and it has been celebrated annually since 1971.

But traditional father's aren't all that common nowadays. In fact, there are only 25.8 million fathers in married-couple families with their own children under 18. Of them, two in 10 are raising three or more of their own children under 18, one in 10 are raising their own children under age 1, one in eight are under 30 and 4 percent are 55 or over.

What once was so unusual as to be key to a movie plot has become so common that today, there are 105,000 "stay-at-home" dads. These are married fathers with children under 15 who are not in the labor force primarily so they can care for family members while their wives work outside the home. Stay-at-home dads care for 189,000 children.

Some 2 million preschoolers, about one in five, are cared for by their fathers for more hours than any other child-care provider while their mothers are at work.

Today, there are 2 million single fathers, up from 393,000 in 1970. One in six single parents is a single father, compared to one in 10 in 1970.

Of these, 10 percent are raising three or more of their own children under 18, 45 percent are divorced, 34 percent have never married, 17 percent are married with an absent spouse and 4 percent are widowed.

Ten percent are raising their own infants under age 1, 22 percent are under 30, 5 percent are over 55 and 13 percent live in the home of a relative or a nonrelative.

Three in 10 children under 18 are living with their single father and his unmarried partner. In contrast, only one in 10 children who lived with their single mother shared the home with mom's unmarried partner.

The Census Bureau had some good news, however, including the fact that 60 percent of children under 6 years old, living with their married parents, eat dinner on a daily basis with their fathers, 24 percent eat breakfast daily with dad and 88 percent are praised by their fathers at least once a day. Whatever your particular situation, those are a few things to think about this Father's Day.

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