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Survey Shows Stay-at-Home Dads Feel Empowered — Financially and Emotionally

'Fatherly' and New York Life surveyed at-home dads to find out why and how they do what they do.

The following was produced in partnership with our friends at New York Life, who are committed to helping families be happy, successful, and good at life.

Over the last nearly three decades, the number of self-identified stay-at-home dads has steadily risen. The total number peaked at two million in 2012, nearly double what it was in 1989, due to a spike in unemployment during the Great Recession. Many of those fathers have since returned to work and informed estimates now put the number of American stay-at-home dads around 1.75 million. Still, that’s a lot of dads at home. A recent survey by Fatherly and New York Life found that while this trend is likely due in part to the strong support men are getting from their partners, the decision to stay home is also based on some other important calculations. The survey found a new generation of parents breaking old gender norms, prioritizing family and finances, and supporting one another.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Stay-At-Home Parenting

Some 72 percent of dads and 65 percent of moms responding to Fatherly’s survey felt judged for choosing to be stay-at-home parents. Responses indicate the judgment is likely to come from other working parents, friends, in-laws, family members — pretty much everyone but their partners. Modern at-home dads can safely rely on healthy support from their spouses and feel empowered in their decision-making role around the home.

Stay-at-home dads also seem to really like being at home. More than 40 percent of full-time male caregivers said their ideal family employment situation would have at least one parent working from home. While at-home dads were more likely than at-home moms to want to switch places with their partner as the primary income earner, that number was low overall; fewer than 25 percent of at-home dads expressed a desire to return to the office.

Money is clearly a factor when it comes to the experience of being a stay-at-home parent. The data suggest that households with stay-at-home dads generally have higher pre-tax incomes than households with stay-at-home moms, and that at-home dads are particularly common in high-income families.

While 10 percent of at-home dads stay home primarily to help a high-earning spouse pursue mutually beneficial goals, a much smaller share of women made the same claim. Less surprisingly, the high cost of childcare was the clear driving factor behind the choice to stay at home for both men and women.

One final finding from the survey is that finances are managed markedly more equally households with stay-at-home dads. When moms are the primary caregiver, they are also overwhelmingly the primary financial manager. The willingness of dads to cede that to their spouses, or at least manage it jointly, seems to line up with the earlier finding that most self-identifying stay-at-home dads feel empowered by their partners. All of which aligns with our previous report on Millennial parents and family finances, which found that open communication around financial planning improves couples’ relationships.

Dads may be staying home in record numbers, and they’re doing so with overwhelming support from their partners that empowers them to break away from old gender roles while still prioritizing family and finances. That encouragement helps ensure that stay-at-home dads make the best decisions possible for their families’ futures. And that’s what being good at life is ultimately about — having a plan and supporting the people you love to help everyone do more of what they love and enjoy the things that matter most.

This article was produced in partnership with our friends at New York Life, who are committed to helping families be happy, successful, and good at life. Learn more at