Not all dads are created equal. Some of them become fathers by virtue of the relationships they are in. As blended families become more common, the definition of fathering extends well beyond men’s own biological or adopted children.
The most recent data on American dads was released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday (just in time for Father’s Day on Sunday).
The Men’s Fertility Report shows the diversity of men’s fatherhood experiences and examines the relationships between men and their partners’ children, and how those relationships are predictive of other information about men’s lives.
“These data add much needed depth and complexity to the overall discussion of fertility and parenthood in the United States,” the report notes.
Here are a few things to know about American dads:
— About 61% of men aged 15 and over are fathers.
— Roughly 36 million men live with about 80 million children aged 0 to 17.
— Men who start having children at older ages (aged 35 or older) have fewer children than men who had their first child before the age of 25.5
— Approximately 17% of men aged 40 to 50 have never been married and 24% are childless.
— Nearly 90% of men whose youngest child is under age 6 are employed, compared to slightly more than 60% for women.
— Childless men are less likely to be in management than are fathers, regardless of men’s children’s ages. Childless men are also less likely to be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, occupations than are fathers whose youngest child is under age 18.
We all know that the make-up of the American family has evolved. What’s interesting is how many men who don’t have biological children of their own are eager to be dads. It has only been in the last decade or so that data has been tracked to find out what the American dad looks like.
“Less is known about men’s fertility than women’s, including information about when in their lives men become fathers or remain childless, how many children they have, and the demographic factors associated with these events,” the report stated.
The Survey of Income and Program Participation, or SIPP, marked the first time the U.S. Census Bureau collected full fertility histories from all adults, both men and women. (The report provides information on fertility rates, total children ever born, completed fertility and childlessness by selected demographic characteristics, as well as information on father involvement and child well-being by type of father/child relationship, whether biological, step or adoptive.)
Unsurprisingly, fathers make up a large portion of the adult male population of the United States. Out of the 121.2 million men in the United States, about six in every 10 are fathers; 72.2 million men have a biological child. More than one-third of men are married and have biological children with their spouse. There are also 2.9 million men (2.4% of all U.S. men) who are living with an unmarried partner (or “cohabiting”) and have children with that partner. Additionally, nearly one in 10 men have children with more than one person.
According the report’s findings, policy makers are often particularly concerned with fathers of minor children (meaning children aged 0 to 17), as father presence and involvement is highly predictive of children’s sociability, self-control and academic performance. (They make good role models, apparently.)
One in four men — 34.3 million — have a biological child who is younger than 18. Four out of five fathers of minor children live with at least some of those children (79.8%). Moreover, almost three-quarters (72.6%) live with all of their minor children.
There are 29.2 million grandfathers — 24.1% of all men aged 15 and over. This is roughly the same as the percentage of all men who have minor children (28.3%). Although few men are simultaneously grandfathers and fathers to minor children, these two populations help to frame men’s experiences of fatherhood and fathering.
The majority of men who live with only their own children live with biological children, although about 3% of men live with adopted children.
Other research in the report has found that parents eating dinner with their children is associated with a range of benefits for children, including expanded vocabulary, fewer behavior problems and lower likelihood of substance abuse among teenagers.
Some men really are more than role models — they’re also definitely good dads.