In a new poll of registered voters conducted by Morning Consult and Vox, we asked Americans about their experiences with their own fathers growing up, or with father figures like stepdads or anyone else who was like a father to them.
Most Americans said that they had a father figure present all or most of the time when they were growing up. However, young people between the ages of 18 and 29 were the least likely to report having a father figure present all of the time.
And, generally, most people thought their dads did a pretty good job of raising them — although better in some ways than others. Our survey respondents were more likely to say that their dads did an “excellent” job of teaching them values and school skills, for instance, than at offering emotional support — or, interestingly, helping them manage their finances.
The nature of fatherhood in America is changing. Dads are doing more housework and child care than they used to, and more moms are working outside the home. About 20 percent of gay men are now raising a child under 18. Millennial men in particular say they want to be an equal partner with their spouses in child-rearing and household chores.
Yet there are still a lot of barriers to making gender equality in the household a reality — particularly when it comes to workplace policies like paid paternity leave or flexible scheduling that would make it easier for working dads to be caregivers. Research shows that paternity leave, especially when it’s reserved only for fathers, is a key way to make chores and child-rearing more gender-equal.
Our poll also found that there is still a significant gender gap when it comes to who does the most work on household chores or taking care of children. There was less of a gender divide on who handles “general family emergencies,” though.
One reason for this may be that the overwhelming majority of respondents to our poll said they don’t have paid maternity or paternity leave. Most also said that they didn't have paid vacation or sick leave, which can also be useful for taking time off to handle family matters.
The United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t offer some kind of national paid maternity leave, and most private sector workers in particular don’t have access to paid family leave.
Many poll respondents said that having these benefits would be important to them. Earning more money was the most important thing to the most people, though — which makes sense since not everyone who works has children.
But the undervaluing of paternity leave in particular shows that there are still gender stereotypes about which parent should take care of the kids — and a lack of awareness that many children are raised by single fathers or gay male couples.
There was also a gender gap when it came to benefits and how people prioritized them. Fewer women than men have access to paid vacation (25 percent versus 38 percent) and paid sick leave (26 percent versus 31 percent), for instance. Women also placed a higher priority than men on workplace flexibility options, such as telecommuting or flexible scheduling (44 percent of women and 35 percent of men said workplace flexibility was “very important”). These kinds of options make it easier to arrange childcare and juggle other household duties.
This poll was conducted from June 03-07, 2016, among a national sample of 2001 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, region, annual household income, home ownership status and marital status. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.