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More Millennial Moms and Dads Are Staying Home to Raise the Kids Than Previous Generations

Changing economic conditions and attitudes about gender roles are big driver behind the shift.

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Too often parents are forced to make the choice between spending more time at work or being at home. And, even though the overall number of stay-at-home parents hasn’t increased since 1989, per a recent Pew study, the number of dads and millennial parents taking the stay-at-home plunge is actually on the rise.

Of the 11 million or 18 percent, of parents who are staying at home, the share of them that are fathers has increased from four percent in 1989 to about seven percent now. Surprisingly, given the number of women and moms who have entered the workforce in recent decades, the share of moms who are staying at home hasn’t changed very much. In fact, it dropped just one point from 28 percent in 1989 to 27 percent in 2016. But the real gaps seem to be based on generations rather than gender, as millennial parents are staying home way more than their parents did.

Between 2015 and 2016, 21 percent of millennial parents were staying at home, while when their Gen X predecessors were the same age, that number was around 17 percent. A little over a third of millennial moms between 20 and 30 years old are staying home compared to just about 25 percent in the previous generation. The millennial to Gen X gap is even more pronounced among dads, with six percent of millennial dads staying home with their kids in 2016, nearly double the amount of Gen X stay-at-home fathers.

The reasons for the change are very much based on generational differences predicted by changing social attitudes and certain economic conditions. Right after the 2008 recession hit, the number of stay-at-home parents rose to 20 percent, up five points from the 15 percent low in 2000.  This was very much the case for stay-at-home dads, a third of which reported being at home due to a lack of work.

But for millennial dads, that’s not totally the case, around 25 percent of them reported being at home just to care for their kids and maintain their house. This is definitely a signal of evolving attitudes regarding gender roles, but there is still a lot of work to be done on that front because 78 percent of moms still report staying at home just to take care of their children.