Fast Facts for Father's Day: Lone-Father Families and Economic Insecurity
June 12, 2008
An official holiday to honor fathers was initially proposed in 1909 by the daughter of a widowed father. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, raised six children after his wife died in childbirth. Today, lone parenthood is almost exclusively associated with mothers. Yet, families headed by single fathers represent one of the fastest growing demographic groups.
In 2006, about 4.7 percent of children—3.46 million children—lived in single-father families. Between 1990 and 2006, the number of children in single-father families increased by 74.1 percent. By comparison, the total number of children in married couple families increased by 6.8 percent and the number in single-mother families increased by 23.9 percent. Of the nearly 21 million children living in single-parent families in 2006, about 16.8 percent live in single-father families.
Source: Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements, Current Population Survey.
Many Single-Father Families Are Economically Insecure
Among people living in single-parent families headed by a working father, almost 28 percent are economically insecure based on their earnings and any public forms of assistance they receive. We define a family as economically insecure if their income falls below the "basic family budget"—a measure of the basic goods and services needed to "make ends meet"—for where they live. 
Source: Bridging the Gaps Project, Center for Economic and Policy Research and Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston, analysis of Survey of Income and Program Participation.
Low-Wage Jobs Contribute to the Economic Insecurity of Single-Father Families
About one in four men work in low-wage jobs. (We define a low-wage job as one that pays less than 2/3rds of the male median wage or $11.11 an hour in 2005.) The typical man working in a low-wage job earned $8.64 in 2005. Women are still more likely to work in low-wage jobs than men—about 36 percent of women workers are in low-wage jobs—but the gap between men and women narrowed. In 1979, nearly 56 of women worked in low-wage jobs. By comparison, the share of men in low-wage jobs actually increased—by just over one percentage point—between 1979 and 2005.