“After I got divorced in 1999, I had custody of my kids, but I went out of my way to drop them at their mother’s house over the weekends,” said a 47-year-old African American man in Baltimore. He lost his job during the 2008 recession and was out of work for two years. After finding and losing another job, he lost his house, and his teenage daughters moved in with their mother. “Things should have been done differently,” he said. “I felt like they didn’t listen to me and based my value on my income.”
The decline of men at work has primarily been seen as a labor-market or broader economic issue. Yet it is a child-welfare issue of concern to us all. For the sake of their children, millions of working-age men need to work.
Many fathers and mothers are out of work for some period while their children are growing up, yet the effects on kids of fathers not working has received relatively little attention. This is a significant and growing problem, as about 13 million 25- to 64-year-old men are not working, and several million more are in part-time jobs not by choice, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Steve Hipple. This number excludes about 1.1 million incarcerated fathers.
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