Black Fathers Embrace The Role Of Stay-At-Home Parent

Flexible work, rising childcare costs, and a desire to spend time with family created the conditions for Black men to explore being stay-at-home dads. (Credit: nappy / Pexels)

by Bria Overs

In a demonstration of engagement and support in education, thousands of fathers and male figures across more than 100 cities in 31 states accompanied their children to school last September. They showed up and showed out to signify the importance of fathers and their presence in all aspects of their children’s lives.

The event, called The Million Fathers March, brought out an estimated 64,8000 participants, according to Fathers Incorporated, an Atlanta-based non-profit supporting fathers through services and programming.

What demographic had the largest turnout that late summer day? Black men, Kenneth Braswell, CEO of Fathers Incorporated, says.

“If you stand outside of any low-income school in this country, including D.C., and you watch the cars that come around to drop off children, I guarantee you the vast majority of people that you will see dropping off children will be Black men,” Braswell tells Word In Black.

Parenthood looks different from years past. Importantly, who stays home and who does not has also changed. 

Nearly a quarter of children under 15 with married parents have a stay-at-home mother, while 1% have a stay-at-home father, according to November 2023 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Regardless of marital status, dads now represent 18% of all stay-at-home parents, a Pew Research Center analysis found, up from 11% in 1989. 

Some are retired or in school, others are unable to find work. A majority of men today said they took on this role in their families because they are ill or disabled. They also increasingly said they wanted to take care of their homes and families.

White men make up a larger share of stay-at-home dads at 50% of the group, followed by 21% of Hispanic fathers. Black fathers “are a larger share of stay-at-home dads than they are of working dads.”

Why Black Men Are Staying Home

An increase in stay-at-home dads, especially among Black men, does not surprise Braswell. A decade ago, research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found Black fathers were most likely, at 70%, to “have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day,” compared with white and Hispanic fathers.

He says flexible schedules, thanks to entrepreneurial endeavors, the availability of part-time work, the gig economy, and remote work, allow dads to show up and be more engaged. But this is only one aspect.

The rising cost of childcare is likely pushing more parents, across genders, to stay home. In 2021, 17% of Black children under 5 lived with a family member who had to quit, change, or refuse a job because of issues with child care, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

William M. Rodgers III, vice president and director of the Institute for Economic Equity at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, says wages and non-labor income are two main factors behind the decision to work. Like Black women, Black men also face a wage gap, earning 80% of the median earnings of white men

“Maybe they decide to stay home because the wage offer they’re getting is not high enough to induce them to want to work,” Rodgers says. “It could be that they have other sources of income. If they’re married, it may be that their wife is garnering a higher wage.”

Empowerment and smashing glass ceilings by women could be another contributor, Braswell says, as well as embracing the idea of nurturing from men, which is positive for families and the economy.

“You’re not only growing productivity by investing in creating good young people who are going to be more productive,” Rodgers says. “These early childhood investments, particularly Head Start, if sustained, have longer lasting positive impacts.”