|Image from Mr. Mom, via 20th Century Fox|
Many celebrate this milestone as a true achievement in women's parity. Partially as a result of such changes in education demographics, we are starting to see the softening of gender roles within the home. Today, nearly one in five stay at home parents is a man. Such a shift has been partially enabled by the fact that as women receive higher levels of education, in many cases, they are earning just as much, if not more than their husbands. This is not to say the number of stay at home parents is on the rise. In fact, less than 25 percent of married households include a stay-at-home parent.
Paternal leave policies have also broadened recently thanks to the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, enabling more men to take on a greater role in the child rearing process. However, compared to many other countries, the US still has a long way to go, ranking towards the bottom of the top income countries in terms of amount of time designated for paternal leave and funding towards paternal leave. Several of the top income countries, such as Sweden, Norway, and Germany offer paid time off for paternal leave. But even with minimal policy liberalization, we have started to see a shift, so one can assume that if the US were to liberalize family leave laws even further, it is likely that we would see the number of stay at home fathers increase even further.
Finally, the Great Recession really took it's toll on men in the American labor force. The typically male-dominated sectors of manufacturing and construction were particularly hard hit, leaving roughly nine percent of the US male labor force unemployed. In fact, at one point during the recession, the gender jobless gap stood at 2.7 percentage points apart- the greatest unemployment disparity between genders in the last 50 years! As such there are a large percentage of stay at home fathers who became so by default. In any case, this will be a very interesting trend to follow as we continue our long journey out of the Great Recession, or as it has been cleverly dubbed, the 'Great Mancession'.
So where does this leave us? Are we likely to see a convergence between men and women- where a fairly equal number of men will stay at home to raise their children as we see with women? Will the number of women pursuing advanced degrees plateau as the earnings gap further decreases?