Costs of Father Absence
Special Report - October 21, 2008
A recent report from the Maryland-based National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) estimates the cost of father-absence for taxpayers to be at least $99.8 billion per year. The report entitled, “One-Hundred Billion Dollar Man: The Annual Public Costs of Father-Absence,” is the first-ever to offer an estimate of how much the federal government spends annually to support father-absent households. The authors of the NFI report, the late Dr. Steven Nock of the University of Virginia and Professor Christopher Einolf of DePaul University, based their estimate on the federal government’s 2006 expenditures on 13 government programs, including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), child support enforcement, housing programs, food and nutrition programs, Medicaid and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program). The authors point out that 34 percent of children today live absent their biological fathers, and that the proportion of children in single-mother homes has risen from eight percent in 1960 to 23.3 percent in 2006. They also note that 39.3 percent of families headed by single mothers live in poverty, compared to only 8.8 percent of families where fathers are present.
According to Nock and Einolf, the $99.8 billion is a “conservative estimate” because it excludes “three significant but hard to measure sources of costs,” including “the indirect costs related to the poor outcomes of children from single-mother families, such as greater use of mental and physical health services, and a higher rate of involvement in the juvenile justice system.” They also left out the “long term costs in reduced taxable income due to lower earnings of children from single parent homes and costs due to higher incarceration rates of children from single parent families.”
“The best available estimates suggest that 65.4 percent of single-mother families would leave poverty if marriage rates returned to 1971 levels, and that 46.5 percent of unwed mothers would leave poverty if they married the fathers of their children,” the NFI report states. “While a reduction of this size in the number of single-mother families would be unrealistic, the data suggest that even a small reduction in the number of father-absent families would bring a large savings in federal anti-poverty spending.” The report calls for more research into both the direct and indirect costs of father absence.
“The data consistently show that families with involved fathers fare better than families where the father is absent,” said Matt Lytle, director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “While studies abound that show the benefit of fathers for the family, this study joins a new and increasing group of studies that demonstrate that involved fathers benefit more than just their families. There is a real, measurable benefit to society as well.”s
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.