While the marriage-gap is a well documented social phenomenon, the fatherhood gap is new and uncertain research that could illuminate a concerning condition to modern fatherhood.
The marriage-gap works as follows: couples who are wealthier and better educated tend to marry later, and stay married longer. Couples who have less education and less professional success tend to not marry and to divorce more often. Because a fragmented family is more expensive to maintain than an intact one, they tend to then get poorer still. The married thus end up much wealthier than the unmarried and the gap between them is getting wider.
The “Fatherhood-gap,” a term which has yet to be scientifically documented, comes from research which is beginning to illuminate a gap similar to the marriage-gap but found among fathers. Fathers from intact families are spending more time with their kids than their own fathers did. So those who have dads in the home are getting more time with those dads. Thus the gap in actual fathering time between those whose fathers live with them and those whose fathers don’t is getting wider.
Just as with the marriage gap, privilege plays a big role. Fathers who are more engaged with their children tend to be wealthier and better educated. Fewer fathers from poor families live with their kids, although they may live with some of them. So kids from better-off families tend to have more time with their dads, with all the social and developmental benefits that can often entail. Part of this privilege comes from the job which a father has and what that job affords him. Knowledge based jobs, managerial jobs, and so on often times afford a degree of location flexibility. In a study recently conducted by Boston College 53% of the men surveyed said they would work from home if they could make the numbers work.
Unfortunately, for many men the numbers just don’t work, and they’re left with little option outside their current positions. Many fathers are forced into decisions where they have to choose their family or their job. “Working class Americans typically lack the kind of flexibility those in professional and managerial jobs take for granted,” noted Joan Williams in her 2010 book Reshaping the Work Family Debate. She analyzed 99 arbitrations in which workers had been disciplined because of actions they took — like leaving in the middle of a work day — because of a family need. Often the men didn’t even mention why they had to go for fear of being stigmatized at their workplace. As we have mentioned before, while the stay-at-home dads are growing in numbers, but there is only a few 154,000 in the U.S. currently according to the U.S. Census.