NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Group Claims Number of Father-Absent Homes Has Plateaued

April 9, 2002

After climbing for decades, the proportion of American homes without a father or stepfather has leveled off, according to a report from the National Fatherhood Initiative. The group claims its report, "Father Facts," is a compilation of the latest data regarding fathers, mothers, children, family well-being, "fragile families," child custody, child support, stepfamilies and adoption.

Here are some highlights:

  • From 1960 to 1996, the number of children who lived in homes without a father or stepfather rose steadily -- from 7 million to 20 million.
  • But since the mid-1990s, the number and proportion of children in father-absent homes has leveled off -- while the number of children living with both parents has remained fairly constant.
  • The group cautioned in its report that while children who grow up without fathers are not doomed, father absence "significantly increases the risk that a child will suffer negative outcomes."
  • Thirty-four percent of children live in homes without their biological father -- including 66 percent of black children, 35 percent of Hispanic children and 27 percent of white children.

The report also stated that the best predictor of father presence is marriage.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "Fatherless Homes No Longer on Rise," Washington Times, April 9, 2002; Wade F. Horn and Tom Sylvester, "Father Facts," 4th Edition, 2002, National Fatherhood Initiative.


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