The Father Factor

[Press Release] Fewer U.S. Children Living without a Father in the Home while Father-Child Relationships Improve during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Jun 29, 2021


GERMANTOWN, Md. – June 2021 – As the nation celebrates Father’s Day, data released in the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey (CPS) show that the number of children living without a father in the home has declined to 18.3 million (25.1% of U.S. children), the lowest number of children in father-absent homes since 1993. National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI), the nation’s leading nonprofit organization working to end father absence, credits this significant reduction to the tireless work of individuals and organizations at the local, state, and federal level to proactively engage fathers in their children’s lives.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, when children are raised with a father or father-figure in the home, they are:

  • 4 times less likely to live in poverty
  • 2 times less likely to drop out of high school
  • 7 times less likely to become pregnant before the age of 18
  • Less likely to commit crime and be sentenced to prison

Based on the data reported in the 2020 CPS, there are 2.3 million fewer children in father-absent homes since that figure peaked at 20.6 million in 2012. The proportion of U.S. children living without a father in the home has also reached its lowest point since 1990.

This positive data comes as fathers across the U.S. have seen improvements in their relationships with their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study conducted by the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 68% of dads report that the pandemic has brought them closer to their children – with large numbers of fathers reporting having more meaningful conversations with their children, getting to know their children better, and sharing more with their children about their own lives.

Involved dads have a positive impact on their children’s overall emotional and social well-being. Over the past 27 years, NFI has worked to equip human services agencies to serve fathers through the delivery of nearly 10 million skill-building resources and the development of responsible fatherhood programs used by thousands of human services agencies across the country. These agencies have pivoted dramatically during the pandemic to offer services and peer-to-peer engagement on virtual platforms, reaching fathers they wouldn’t have been able to with in-person facilitation and helping them be the best dads they can be.

“Our nation’s children depend on us to give them the best environment in which to grow into healthy adults,” said Christopher Brown, president, National Fatherhood Initiative®. “The latest data from CPS,  coupled with new trends toward stronger father-child relationships during the pandemic, are cause for celebration. Despite these shifts, the number of children living in father-absent homes is still unacceptably high. We will continue to build capacity in communities to address father absence through evidence-based programming, training, and resources.” 

The annual CPS gathers data from a sample of U.S. households to identify estimates of America’s families and their living arrangements. Data are categorized by how many children under the age of 18 live in different households: two-parent (married and not married), mother-only, father-only, or neither-parent (i.e. other relatives or no relatives). NFI uses this data to track father absence in the intervening years between the decennial census. The 2020 U.S. Census, with data to be released throughout 2021, will reveal greater trends related to father absence through data gathered from all U.S. households.  

In 2019, NFI released the eighth edition of Father Facts. This publication is the most comprehensive source of data on father absence at the national and state levels and on the consequences of father absence and benefits of father involvement for children.

How to Mobilize Your City. County, or State Around Responsible Fatherhood

Topics: Featured, Father Absence Research

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