When it comes to working dads, California ranks No. 38

With Father’s Day upon us and 93.7% of married dads working last year compared to 71.1% of married moms, the personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2023’s Best & Worst States for Working Dads.

In order to help dads balance their dual role as parent and provider, WalletHub compared the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across 23 key indicators of friendliness toward working dads. The data set ranges from the average length of the workday for men to child-care costs to the share of men in good or better health.

Life as a Working Dad in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 8th – Male Life Expectancy
  • 38th – % of Kids Younger than 18 with Dad Present Living in Poverty
  • 44th – Unemployment Rate for Dads with Kids Younger than 18
  • 22nd – Male Uninsured Rate
  • 2nd – Avg. Length of Work Day (in Hours) for Men
  • 10th – % of Physically Active Men
  • 46th – Child-Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Family* Income)
  • 49th – Day-Care Quality

*Refers to families with kids aged 0 to 17 and in which the father is present

Expert Commentary

What are the biggest issues facing working dads today?

“As work-and-home-life is less gendered than in previous decades, the issues for moms and dads are more similar than different. Balancing the hours spent at work with the hours spent with family continues to be challenging for both. With the costs associated with managing a household (e.g., mortgage/rent, repairs, utilities) rising, having an income that will provide for a family and create life satisfaction is one of the major issues faced. The stresses associated with financial hurdles take their toll on all aspects of family life which in turn can affect performance at work. Finding a family-responsive workplace is a concern. Dads want to be involved in the activities and care of their child(ren), The ability to utilize flextime, parental leave, and telecommuting to engage and reduce the burden on a partner is an issue.”
— Susan Turgeson, Ed.D., CFCS – Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

“Working dads face pressures to demonstrate devotion to work. Workplaces expect their workers to adhere to ideal worker norms, where workers are expected to work long hours and place work above all else. Additionally, dominant norms of masculinity and fatherhood still prioritize the importance of breadwinning for fathers. This means that fathers face immense pressure to put work first. At the same time, fathers increasingly say they want to be more involved parents and partners, yet lack the time to do so. This creates challenges for fathers to be as involved as they say they want to be because they also feel pressure to work and fear being stigmatized or penalized if they prioritize family over work (by taking family leave, requesting flexible work options, etc.). ”
— Richard J. Petts – Professor, Ball State University

How likely is it that men will take advantage of family leave policies adopted in New York State and elsewhere?

“According to the research on paternity leaves, many men are reluctant or refuse to take these leaves because they are afraid that it will hurt their family (their kids) later on. Unselfishly, they sacrifice what they would like to do (take leave to be with their newborns) for what they are ‘expected’ to do. Even though the employer may offer these leaves, bosses, and coworkers often look down on men who take them. Consequently, these dads might get fewer raises, fewer promotions, and fewer of the more ‘desirable’ opportunities at work. Also, very few employers offer men full-pay leaves or offer dads more than a week or two, in contrast to longer and fully paid leaves for women. In countries such as Sweden where moms and dads are offered equal time off for leaves and dads receive at least 70% of their pay, most dads take the leaves.”
— Linda Nielsen – Professor, Wake Forest University; Author of Myths and Lies about Dads: How they hurt us all (Routledge, 2023)

“It depends on the individual family situation but my guess is that many fathers will be reluctant to take leave due to continued stigma from employers and coworkers. It can be helpful when top executives choose to take leave to create a model for other fathers to feel more comfortable doing so. Some countries, such as Sweden and Finland, have special nudge policies that require fathers to take a certain proportion of the parental leave available to both partners, and this might be an interesting model for states to pilot.”
— Darby Saxbe, Ph.D. – Professor & Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology – University of Southern California

How can young fathers strike the right balance between career and family?

“Fathers should be mindful when they are on the job market of different employers’ policies regarding family. Those can include things from more or less generous leave policies to flexible hours, childcare tax credits, health insurance, and death benefits. As we are currently in a job market that favors workers a bit more than in the past, dads may also want to be a bit more forthright about enforcing boundaries between work and family – being prepared to say ‘no’ to some extra overtime or an assignment that commits them to additional stress, time, and work.”
— Nicholas P. Dempsey, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Eckerd College

“Particularly the early years of parenting are important for creating lasting bonds and relationships with their children, and for creating patterns with their partners that are both sustainable and helpful for everyone in the family. Begin as you mean to go on! Many times, men who are early in their careers want to sacrifice time early with their families for the sake of their careers, but the reality is that children grow up and you will never be able to get those years back or ‘make up’ for them later on. So, men need to simply realize that it is extremely challenging, if not impossible sometimes, to truly ‘do it all,’ and so recognize that sacrifices will need to be made at various times. Be aware of what those sacrifices will mean long term, either with their family or with their careers. The workplace culture in the US often is one of constant ‘more, better, all the time’ when in reality, most people can be quite competent at their jobs AND have time to spend with their families. It does not really have to be a zero-sum game, but if you work for an employer that sees it that way and that the balance should swing entirely towards work, men need to recognize how that will sacrifice their relationships with their children and their partners. Of course, some people have to work long hours to pay the bills and make ends meet. If you truly cannot spend more time at home, it is important to be intentional about the time you do spend at home, so that your children and partner know that you are truly focused on them at least some of the time. Have open-ended conversations about how they are doing (if children are older), and spend real time interacting with them and being truly present (not being on your phone while they happen to be in the same room).”
— Kari Adamsons, Ph.D. – Professor, University of Connecticut

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Image Sources

  • Father’s Day, Dad and child: Pexels