December 11, 2017

Freakonomics » The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine

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Freakonomics » The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine.

Indeed, most fathers (63%) say being a dad is harder today than it was a generation ago.

Many people point to the economy when it’s time to blame something for more childfree families. The Freakonomics folks offer some enlightening statistics about the challenges of fatherhood in our age. Is this a job you want today? Would you accept it if the demands were more like dad’s in the 1960s?

In 1965, married fathers with children younger than age 18 living in their household spent an average of 2.6 hours per week caring for those children. Fathers’ time spent caring for their children rose gradually over the next two decades — to 2.7 hours per week in 1975 and three hours per week in 1985. From 1985 to 2000, the amount of time married fathers spent with their children more than doubled — to 6.5 hours in 2000.


Only about one-in-four adults say fathers today are doing a better job as parents than their own fathers did. Roughly one-third (34%) say they are doing a worse job, and 40% say they are doing about the same job.

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  1. Eh? Whats that got to do with choosing a child-free lifestyle?

  2. Hi Claire. And thank you for commenting. For some, the story and the statistics have absolutely nothing to do with choosing a childfree lifestyle. We all have our own reasons, logical, emotional, irrational and otherwise. Because parenting and choice and family are so wrapped up in emotions, traditions, politics and personal experiences, few among us analyze the lifestyle choice with only calculators and spreadsheets. BUT IF WE DID… we might insert stats like these to approximate the costs, benefits, risks and rewards of childbearing before making such a life changing decision. (In the near future, WNK will attempt to shine a mathematical light on such things. After all, having children is costly and risky.)

    Until then, strip away all of your feelings about the childfree choice. Think of motherhood strictly as a job, like any other job, that you’ve applied for. Now consider the stats presented in WNK’s 2 Freakonomics posts, which show you that the job requires more work (cost) but generates less relative benefit (pay) than it did when your parents were raising you. What does that trajectory tell you? Is that a job/career you want to attach yourself to for at least 18 years?

    Apart from that, the Freakonomics posts may show that parenting, on many levels, is significantly more complicated and challenging in today’s culture than it was when our parents had us. Realizing that one’s choice to have children today has very different implications than it did only a generation ago, may help them feel more certain or secure about choosing a different path.

    I think…

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