Fathers who spend time caring for their children are treated worse than their peers whose family lives look more traditional, a new study finds.
Middle-class men who take on greater caregiving roles at home are more penalized at work than men who offload that work to their wives. Women, on the other hand, are treated worse for not having children or having nontraditional caregiving arrangements.
Mothers’ and fathers’ roles at home have been changing in the past half-century. The Pew Research Center found that fathers have nearly tripled the time they spend with their children since 1965 (although there is still a large gender gap, as mothers spend twice as much).
As men have taken on greater caring roles, they have also experienced greater discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported a rise in discrimination claims against caregivers, with a growing share brought by men. The number of family responsibility discrimination cases brought by male plaintiffs rose 300 percent between 2006 and 2010.
Meanwhile, family policies often leave them out. While men are equally entitled to time off to take care of a child under the Family and Medical Leave Act, that leave is unpaid. Fourteen states include new fathers in laws that go beyond the federal floor to offer better policies, the remaining 36 either help new mothers or do nothing at all. Thus while about 85 percent of fathers take time off for the birth of a child, the vast majority take just a week or two. By contrast, offering paid leave in California nearly tripled the amount of time fathers took off, from an average of three weeks to eight.
The U.S. by and large stands alone in not offering paid paternity leave, as at least 66 other countries ensure paid time off for new fathers. Meanwhile it is just one of three countries among 178 that doesn’t offer maternity leave.