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Single fathers on the rise, says study

Kush Azrael | 9/4/2013, 9:44 a.m.

More and more fathers are stepping up to raise their children by themselves.

Children living with only their fathers have hit a record high of 8 percent in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center study.

The number of single-father households has increased nine fold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011.

Single fathers feel the numbers help tear down a stereotype that single fathers abandon their children, or at least don’t take as good care of them as single moms do, says the study. The rise of single fathers can be attributed to many factors, including more judges awarding custody to fathers after divorce and more mothers choosing careers over family life.

Other demographic changes may also be contributing to the increase in the number of single dads. More and more babies are being born to unmarried people and changes in the legal system are making it easier for fathers to gain custody of the children.

Single fathers in general are more likely to be White.

However, compared with married fathers, single fathers are also usually younger and less educated, and if under the age 30, more are likely to be Black.

About 19 percent of single dads don’t have a high school diploma, while just 10 percent of married fathers don’t have one. Among single mothers its 15 percent.

Only 17 percent of single fathers have a Bachelors degree (18 percent of single mothers) compared to 40 percent of married fathers.

In terms of financial status, single fathers are better off than single mothers. For a single father’s household of three, the annual income is $40,000, compared to a married father’s, with the annual income of $70,000, according to the study

You can see the same pattern in terms of poverty. Almost one fourth of single fathers are living at or below the poverty level compared to just 8 percent of married fathers and 43 percent of single mothers.

According to Pew research, which was based on Census Bureau data, about 52 percent of single fathers are separated, divorced, widowed or never married and living without a partner. Forty-one percent were living with a partner, although not married and 7 percent were married but not living with their spouse.

Father-headed households are still only a small percentage. Married couples with children make up 48 percent of households. Single mother households make up 24 percent.

The Census Bureau counts single fathers in a category that would allow other adults, such as the child’s grandparents, to be present, but bureau analysts said research shows that most single fathers are raising a child alone.

Originally, Fathers Day was actually to honor a single father. A woman named Sonora Dodd wanted to honor her father, a Civil War veteran who raised six children alone after his wife died in childbirth. In 1910, she and others celebrated the first informal Fathers Day in Spokane, Washington, and the movement spread quickly across the country. The holiday didn’t become nationally recognized until 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson declared that the third Sunday in June would be National Father’s Day.

Single fathers still face many hurdles according to Al Grimes, director of the fatherhood Initiative.