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Who’s Minding the Kids?

One third of fathers with working wives regularly care for their children
  • January 16 2012

Child care still typically falls to mothers, but fathers have been taking a more active role over the past decade as more married women are part of the labor force. Among fathers with a wife in the workforce, 32 percent were a regular source of care for their children under age 15 in 2010, up from 26 percent in 2002. Among those with preschool-age children, one in five fathers was the primary caregiver, meaning their child spent more time in their care than any other type of arrangement.

The series of tables from the U.S. Census Bureau—Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2010— shows that in a typical week, 12.2 million (61 percent) of the 20 million children under age 5 were in some type of regular child care arrangement.

Other highlights from the Census study include:

  • In households with working mothers, family members continue to serve as an important source of child care for preschoolers.
  • In spring of 2010, 30 percent of preschoolers were regularly cared for by their grandparents, 29 percent were cared for by their fathers and 12 percent received care from a sibling or other relative.
  • Preschoolers with employed black and Hispanic mothers were more likely to be cared for by their grandparents than their fathers; 29 percent of black preschoolers were cared for by their grandparents, while a quarter (22 percent) were cared for by their fathers. A third of Hispanic preschoolers were regularly taken care of by their grandparent, compared to 29 percent who received care from their fathers.
  • Among preschoolers of employed non-Hispanic white mothers, 30 percent were cared for by their fathers and 29 percent were cared for by their grandparents.
  • Of the 21 million mothers who were employed in the spring of 2010, one-third reported they paid for child care for at least one of their children.
  • Families with an employed mother and children younger than 15 paid an average of $138 per week for child care in 2010, up from $81 in 1985 (in constant 2010 dollars), the first year that the data was collected.



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