If you know a single dad, give him a hug or at least a high five on Father's Day—he likely has a lot to deal with, and little company (unless, perhaps, he's in California). According to the Census Bureau, only 15 percent of single parents were men, as of 2011. All told, there are 1.7 million single dads in the country, out of around 70 million fathers total. And Census data show that households in certain California cities are, to an unusual degree, headed by unmarried fathers.
According to the data, these are the metro areas with the largest proportion of family households headed by unmarried men raising their own children.
|Metro Area||Households with Kids, Headed by Unmarried Men||As a Percent of All Households|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.||44,657||3.4|
|Las Vegas-Paradise, N.V.||24,269||3.4|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 figures. Data only include metropolitan areas with populations of 300,000 or more.
These numbers may capture some households headed by men with a partner—albeit not a spouse—present. But the data still suggest that certain cities in California have a large number of solo fathers.
It's tough to pin down exactly why this might be, but it may in part be because of California's history of more open divorce laws, which may have created an atmosphere more conducive to divorce.
"California is a divorce state. It was one of the first to have no-fault divorce. It might have to do with lifestyle," says Ron Haskins, codirector of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings institution.
While single dads may not be distributed evenly geographically, many of them share a common problem: money. Raising children on a single income is naturally more challenging than on a dual income. Even with a non-working partner present, the financial burden of parenthood can be lightened, reducing the need for childcare.
As of 2011, 19 percent of households headed by single dads fell below the poverty line. That's well above the poverty rate for married-couple families (with or without children), at around 6 percent. However, it should be noted that it is also far below the 37 percent of single-mom households that fall below the poverty line.
The story is similar for higher-earning single dads: 38 percent of solo dads have an annual family income over $50,000 per year, while the same can only be said of 25 percent of single moms. By comparison, married couples' families tend to take in substantially more money—67 percent of these couples make $50,000 or more per year.
Aside from economic burdens, another common thread connects many single-parent families, says Haskins: troubled kids.
"We now have a huge number of studies ... and the studies generally show the same thing: Kids in married-couple families do much better than kids of divorce or kids who are reared by single-parent families." Haskins says that dropout, suicide, and teen pregnancy rates tend to be worse for kids from single-parent families.
"That doesn't mean there aren't great single parents," says Haskins. "But social science is about averages."