'State of America's Fathers' a study in changing attitudes and responsibilities

This is a fascinating study of America's fathers that outlines how times and the role of fathers has changed over the last 5 decades.

The State of America’s Fathers was released Tuesday by Promundo-US and the MensCare campaign. It uses preliminary, previously unpublished data from the Families and Work Institute’s National Study of the Changing Workforce. Promundo is an international organization that works with males to promote gender equality and emphasize their caregiver roles alongside women, Promundo-US president and CEO Gary Barker said.

The report found fathers overall have increased the time they spend with their kids by nearly a third over the past three decades, and that the number of men and women who want to share child care responsibilities is at a high point. But while high-income men are celebrated for their involvement with their offspring, men of lower means, many not living with their kids, are “often either valued or stigmatized simply by their ability to pay their way.”

It's not surprising that poor fathers have more difficulty meeting their obligations than richer dads. But the study found those poor dads just as engaged with their children:

Policies and attitudes favor “have” dads over the “have-nots,” he said. Lower-income, less-educated dads are more likely to be nonresident parents who don’t live with their children than are high-income, well-educated dads. He noted many fall behind in their obligations to their children not because they don’t want to pay, but because the expectations are unrealistically high. They are challenged by poverty, lack of education and fewer opportunities more often than they are shiftless, he said, calling them “not deadbeat fathers, but dead-broke ones.”

Barker noted 2.7 million children in America have lives further complicated by having a parent, usually a father, who is incarcerated or in some kind of mandated program such as substance abuse treatment or mental health.

The study has some recommendations that require an activist government:

• National legislation for “paid, equal and non-transferable leave for mothers and fathers of newborns.” The report said states that offer paid leave to parents, including New York and California, fund the cost with a payroll tax of about 1 percent.

• Parents should have joint physical custody of children in cases of divorce with no history or threat of violence, but the report also emphasizes the child’s best interests.

• Policies like a living wage and justice reform should be used to support low-income fathers and families in caregiver roles, said the report, which noted nonresident fathers who pay child support should receive an Earned Income Tax Credit.

• Workplace policies should value men and women equally for both employment contributions and caregiver roles. The report said men should be encouraged to enter health, education, administration and literacy professions, while children should “learn the value of caregiving from young ages.”

Paid parental leave is a luxury and requring all companies to give it would cause  many of them to go out of business. Small businesses can't afford to lose a valued employee for a period of time and then pay both the employee and his replacement. 

A "living wage" would be even worse. But some of the recommendations are common sense and sound. Fostering equality in the workplace is good for both men and women and reducing friction over child custody would be best for the child.

Fatherhood has come under assault by feminists who rail against dead beat dads and violent abusers. As it turns out, there are far more caring, loving fathers than bad ones and concentrating on the success of American fathers is far more valuable than pointing to the few failures.