Who needs fathers?

Pew Research is out with a survey about fathers, which includes this finding:

Among all adults, 57% say it is more difficult to be a father today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Only 9% say being a father is easier today, and 32% say it’s about the same. Among dads themselves, 63% say the job is harder now.

How do people know this? They weren’t fathers 20 or 30 years ago, or if they were, they’re not raising kids now. This question, which bloggers like to write about, doesn’t make a lot of sense in the big scheme of things because we can’t properly swap positions with our parents (or with our children) with any degree of reliability.

I think being a father is way harder than anything else in the world, but all I take away from that is a new appreciation for my father, who passed away some years ago, shortly after I wrote him a letter telling him so (I’m still waiting for my letter, kids).

The survey presented some interesting data, but shied away from the deeper questions about the role of fathers. If 1 in 10 fathers lived apart from the family in 1960, and now it’s 1 in 4, is that a failure of fatherhood? Is that why fathers think it was easier to be a father way back when?


There’s clearly a racial component to this, the survey says:

Black fathers are more than twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from their children (44% vs. 21%), while Hispanic fathers fall in the middle (35%). Among fathers who never completed high school, 40% live apart from their children. This compares with only 7% of fathers who graduated from college.

Among fathers who live with their children at least part of the time, nearly nine-in-ten say they are doing a very good (44%) or good (44%) job as fathers to those children. Fathers who do not live with their children rate themselves much more negatively. Only 19% say they are doing a very good job as fathers to the children they live apart from, and 30% say they are doing a good job. One-in-four say their parenting as not very good (13%) or bad (9%).