The Expanding Legions Of Single Dads

While Vice-President Dan Quayle's remarks about Murphy Brown have spotlighted the growth of single-mother households, the fastest-growing family type in percentage terms is single-parent families headed by fathers. Moreover, a recent paper by researchers Daniel R. Meyer and Steven Garasky of the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research on Poverty points out that the number of unmarried fathers within this group has soared nearly twentyfold in the past two decades.

Back in 1970, note the researchers, there were less than 500,000 single-father families. But by 1989, they numbered 1.4 million, compared with 7.4 million female-headed families. And the number of children living with never-married fathers has soared from 32,000 in 1970 to 488,000 in 1990.

Although single-father families are better off than single-mother families, they're hardly well off. Almost 20% live below the poverty line, and another 20% aren't far above it. The study also indicates that single fathers are far less likely to be receiving welfare or to be awarded support from their child's other parent than are single mothers--and even when they are awarded such support by the courts, they are much less likely to actually receive such payments.