If I asked you to guess what the best piece of news National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) could receive, what would you say?
If you said something along the lines of, “The proportion of children living with their dads is higher than at any time in the past 30 years,” you’re spot on. (Okay. The title of this article gave it away.)
One of my roles at NFI is to monitor the release of the annual data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau that we use to track the impact of our organization and the thousands of our partners across this country working to increase the proportion of children growing up with their dads.i When I saw the release of the 2023 data right before Thanksgiving and calculated the proportion of children growing up with a resident dad, a huge smile erupted across my face, followed by a fist pump and one of my favorite expletives.
The proportion of children growing up with a resident dad is at the highest since 1989. Slightly more than three-quarters of children today (75.9%), or 54.5 million of our nation’s 72.3 million, can count a resident dad as a housemate.
And that’s not the only reason I had that reaction.
When I flipped that framing of the data to examine the proportion and number of children growing up without a resident dad—children that NFI and our partners work tirelessly to connect with their dads—my smile widened further. (And I repeated the you-know-what.)
The proportion and number of children growing up without a resident dad are at their lowest since 1989 and 1993, respectively. A primary reason for this great news is the dramatic drop in Black children growing up without a resident dad. In 2023, 47.5% of Black children lived without a resident father, or 5.3 million. This is the lowest proportion since 1973 and number since 1984, and the proportion is 15.3% lower than its peak in 1995. This is the first time since 1976 that more than half of our nation's Black children are growing up with resident dads.
As a reader of this blog, you know that, on average, children who grow up with their dads are more likely to thrive physically, emotionally, and socially than are children who grow up without their dads. Dads’ presence and involvement increase the well-being of their children.ii That’s why NFI and our partners are so dedicated to father inclusion in human service organizations. The more capacity we build to include dads in programs and services, the more dads will become and stay involved in their children’s lives.
I encourage you to join us in keeping this positive momentum going! Let’s take time to celebrate this trend but not take our foot off the gas pedal. To learn more about getting your organization started on the path of father inclusion—or to accelerate your movement on that path—watch our free Stages of Father Inclusion video series.
How familiar are you with the trend of children growing up with a resident dad?
Do you know how to create a more father-inclusive organization?
ii It’s vital to keep in mind that many dads who live apart from their children are involved in their children’s lives. The Census Bureau data captures only physical presence. Research shows that many nonresident dads are highly involved. Moreover, many children who grow up without the involvement of a resident or nonresident dad turn out just fine. Nevertheless, population-based research is clear about the increased chance of children’s well-being when they grow up with resident, involved dads.