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Where Have all the Fathers Gone?

The last census reveals that the percentage of children living with two parents had dramatically increased in all 50 states during the past decade. Once considered primarily a racial problem, fatherless homes have increased across a wide range of demographics over the last ten years.

In every state, the number of families where children have two parents has dropped significantly over the past decade. There are 160,000 more families with children from 2000 to 2010, but 1.2 million less homes with two parents. In 1960, less than 11 percent of children in America lived in homes without a father while today that number has skyrocketed to 1 in 3.

States where two parent homes declined by 6 percent or more included: New Mexico, North Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

Men who walk away from their families are most concentrated in inner cities. In Baltimore, for example, only 38 percent of families have two parents, and in St. Louis the percentage is  slightly higher at 40 percent. The schism is most apparent in Washington, D.C. which has a higher number of two-parent families among whites, at 85 percent, and a lower number among blacks, at 25 percent, than any state.

These statistics leave no doubt that fatherless homes, though changing, is still very much an issue mostly affecting African Americans. Among this group, nearly 5 million children, or 54 percent, live with only their mother. Twelve percent of black families living below poverty line have two parents present, compared with 41 percent of poor Hispanic families and 32 percent of low income white families.

Most black children in 39 states do not live with both parents while in every state, 7 in 10 white children do. In all states except Rhode Island and Massachusetts, most Hispanic children have two parents. In Wisconsin, 77 percent of white children and 61 percent of Hispanics live with both parents, compared with more than 25 percent of black children.

But it isn’t just in large urban areas where the slide toward fatherless homes has occurred. The largest geographic area of sustained fatherlessness is found among the largely black poor areas across Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana running 400 miles along the Mississippi River from Memphis to Baton Rouge. Some neighborhoods in the Tennessee city have 82 percent of their children living without fathers.

Fatherlessness and crime tend to go hand in hand as in seen in crime rates in cities like Memphis. Out of 1,330 cities across the U.S., only 12 had violent-crime rates worse than the 1,860 per 100,000 people documented in Memphis during 2005.

But those outside the black community are catching up in the move toward homes without fathers. From Curtis Bay in Baltimore to Millcreek outside Salt Lake City to Vancouver, Wash., just north of Portland, there are 1,500 neighborhoods with substantial white populations where the majority of white households lack fathers. Maine, Vermont and West Virginia have the lowest dual-parenthood rates for whites.

In areas where the percentage of the black population declined, single parenthood increased over the past decade. In South Carolina, where the black share of the population fell by 2 percent, single parenthood rose by 5 percent. In Kentucky and Louisiana, where the black population was constant, single parenthood increased by 6 percent.

The long term result of less fathers at home is yet to be seen but the short term effects are already far too evident. Boys, without proper male role models, look to other sources for the male bonding they need. In the inner cities that often entails gangs while in the suburbs it tends to be online. Either way, the end result is the same: boys without anyone to show them how a real man behaves usually grow up to become males unwilling or unable to act like real men themselves.

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