Those celebrating Father’s Day could not be more fortunate. In-home dads are increasingly scarce.
The U.S. Census Bureau finds about 20 million children, one-in-four, live without a father in the home. The Pew Research Center found the United States in 2019 had the highest rate of children living in single-parent homes, most of them brought up by single mothers. Few other countries even come close to our country’s percentage of single-parent homes.
“There is a father factor in nearly all social ills facing America today,” explains the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Consider the statistical odds facing children who don’t have in-home dads:
• Four times greater risk of living in poverty
• More likely to suffer with behavioral health problems
• More likely to suffer abuse and neglect
• Twice as likely to die as infants
• More susceptible to substance abuse
• More likely to spend time in prison
• Twice as likely to become obese
• Twice as likely to drop out of school
• Girls without in-home fathers are seven times more likely to get pregnant in their teens
The Minnesota Psychological Association summarizes an overwhelming body of peer-reviewed studies that support claims of the National Fatherhood Initiative. The association also cites studies showing a high percentage of gang members come from fatherless homes.
“Through gangs, youths find a sense of community and acceptance,” says the association.
“In addition, the gang leader may fill the role of father, often leading members to model their behaviors after that individual. Having a father in the child’s life greatly reduces the likelihood of a child joining a gang.”
Despite the gloomy statistics, our country is blessed with people who grew up without fathers and went on to benefit society. Single parents face unimaginable challenges, but most love their children and work hard to mentor them right.
Renowned brain surgeon and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson spent most of his childhood in a fatherless home. So did movie director Quentin Tarantino, actors Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry, and rock star Gene Simmons. A long list of famous and wealthy athletes, authors, professionals and scholars grew up in fatherless homes.
Any child can choose a good path, regardless of unfavorable demographic odds.
Fatherless homes used to be rare, but they get more common by the day. The Brookings Institute reports 24% of black infants and 3.1% of white infants were born to single mothers in 1970. By 1990, the number of infants born to single moms was 64% among blacks and 18% among whites.
Fast forward to today, and we have nearly 30% of white, 52% of Hispanic, and nearly 70% of black babies born to single moms.
The Heritage Foundation and other public policy institutes draw a direct correlation between the creation of welfare programs in the mid-1960s and the increase in single-parent homes. In essence, single parents qualify for considerably more federal and state support than married couples.
“The means-tested welfare system actively penalizes low-income parents who do marry,” claims a report by the foundation. “…if a low-income single mother marries an employed father, her welfare benefits will generally be substantially reduced.”
While celebrating relationships with fathers today, let’s remember how important they are. Society should work to encourage in-home fathers as the norm for children of all ethnic backgrounds, rich and poor alike.
The Gazette Editorial Board