An estimated 2.1 million dads stayed home with their kids in 2021, an 8 percent increase since 1989

By now, we all know that gender roles don’t serve anyone. And more and more, Americans are bucking traditional trends when it comes to work, household management, and childcare. According to new research from Pew, an estimated 2.1 million fathers were stay-at-home dads in 2021, which is an 8 percent increase since 1989.

Experts believe the rise of stay-at-home dads across the U.S. is, at least in part, because women are beginning to out-earn their male partners. Women have outpaced men at earning college and advanced degrees for over two decades now, and because of this, more men are choosing to give up their careers when full-time childcare is required. And with the dramatic rise in childcare costs in recent years, it’s becoming more and more necessary for families to have a parent stay home, rather than sending their kids to daycare.

Plus, with the rise in remote work and flexible work schedules, it’s becoming much more possible (and common) for men to work from home while caring for their kids. This means dual-income families are able to stay that way, even while having a parent stay home with the kids.

All these factors have converged during a time when dads are also taking a more active role in child-rearing than they ever have, historically. In 2016, fathers self-reported that they spent about eight hours a week taking care of their kids. While we’re going to ignore the fact that that’s still way too low, it is three times as many hours as dads reported spending engaged with their kids in 1965. The same trend is happening with household chores—2016 dads reported spending about 10 hours a week on chores, compared to just four hours in 1965 (moms, on the other hand, report spending 14 hours a week on childcare and 18 hours a week on housework).

The economic turmoil of the last few decades may be at play here. During the Great Recession, 2.2 million fathers became stay-at-home dads after losing their jobs. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, many men left the workforce and still have not returned—federal jobs numbers show that as of last month, there were 7 million U.S. men ages 25 to 54 who were unemployed and not looking for work.

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