Move Over, SAHMs (Stay At Home Moms)

Fathers who do not work outside the home—stay at home dads, or SAHDs—are gaining on mothers who are home with their children. 

The number of fathers who do not work outside the home rose in recent years, up to 2 million in 2012. High unemployment during the Great Recession contributed to increases, but the biggest factor to the long-term growth of SAHDs is the rising number of men choosing to stay at home to care for their family, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center.

More than twice as many fathers stay at home with their children than 25 years ago. The total reached its highest point—2.2 million nationwide —in 2010, just after the official end of the recession. Since then the number fell slightly, driven mainly by declines in unemployment, according to a new Pew analysis of Census Bureau data.

Among other findings:


  • Fathers represent a growing share of all at-home parents: 16% in 2012, up from 10% in 1989. Roughly a quarter of stay-at-home fathers report that they are home mainly because they cannot find a job. Nearly as many (21%) say the main reason they are home is to care for their home or family, a fourfold increase from 1989.
  • The largest share of SAHDs (35%) are at home because of an illness or disability. This is in sharp contrast to SAHMs (stay-at-home mothers), most of whom (73%) report that they are home specifically to care for their home or family.
  • Whites are significantly more likely than blacks and Hispanics to live with their children, as are fathers with higher levels of education.
  • SAHDs are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma as working fathers (22% versus 10%) and almost half (47%) of SAHDs live in poverty, compared with 8% of working fathers.
  • SAHDs are far less likely to have a working spouse than SAHMs (50% vs. 68%) and are more likely to be ill or disabled (35% vs. 11%).
  • Just 24% of SAHDs are younger than 35. SAHDs are twice as likely to be 45 or older.


In 2013, Pew found that 51% of respondents said children are better off with a mother at home who does not hold a job. By comparison, only 8% said children are better off if their father is home and doesn’t work.