Vasché: How do we love thee, fathers? Let me count the ways

June 20, 2009 

When my now-33-year-old son was in kindergarten, my work schedule allowed me to spend Monday mornings in his classroom, helping with everything from reading to writing to finger painting.

At the end of the school year they gave me a special thank-you -- a brass key ruing tag engraved with the words "Super Dad."

Over the years keys have come and gone, as I've changed cars or offices or locks on the front door. But that brass tag has always been there, with a house key on one side and an office key on the other.

I wonder how many other fathers have "Super Dad" tags on their key rings. It can't be too many, especially since there are 64.3 million fathers in the nation today.

How do I know there are 64.3 million of us? Because the nation's number keepers say so.

Which brings me to the point of today's Father's Day column: The amazing number of statistics that are compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

If you visit the agency's Web site -- www.census.gov -- you find out right away that its mission is "to be the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy."

And, after spending an hour or two on the site, I believe it. Whatever you're looking for -- from to population growth to demographic and lifestyle patterns to economic indicators to household incomes to retail business trends to property and income taxes to crime stats to school enrollments to health insurance levels to disease and death rates to public and private employment -- the Census Bureau probably has your number.

What does all that add up to? A billion bits of info? A trillion? A gazillion? I contacted the bureau and asked how many statistics it has on file. Within 24 hours I received an e-mail reply: "Sorry, but we don't keep track of this type of information." Apparently there's so much that even the bureau itself doesn't know.

So, today I'll simply share a handful of stats that have to do with dads and their kids. And, I'll bet you're not familiar with these Census Bureau factoids:

25.8 million -- the number of married dads with children younger than 18. Of those, 22 percent had three or more children under 18 in 2008.

66 -- the percentage of children younger than 6 who were praised three or more times a day by their fathers.

1.8 million -- the number of single fathers living with their children. Of those dads, 51 percent were divorced, 25 percent were never married, 19 percent were separated and 5 percent were widowed. And 43 percent had an annual household income of $50,000 or more.

36 -- the percentage of children under 6 who had 15 or more outings with their dad in a single month in 2006.

140,000 -- the number of stay- at-home dads in 2008 who had been out of work for at least a year, and cared for some 234,000 young children while their wives worked.

53 -- the percentage of children under 6 who ate breakfast with their father on a daily basis in 2006. And 71 -- the percentage who ate dinner with dad. (For moms, the percentages were 58 and 80.)

678,000 -- the number of custodial fathers who were due child support in 2005.

$2.4 billion and $3.3 billion -- the amount of child support custodial fathers received, and the amount they were due. (Custodial moms received $22.4 billion of the $33.7 billion they were due.)

6 -- the average number of times children ages 3 to 5 were read to by their fathers in a week.

There's also a fascinating assortment of statistics of specific value on this Father's Day.

For example, if you haven't gotten a gift for Dad, here are some info bits to help you out:

9,003 -- the number of men's clothing stores in the U.S. in 2006. With the recession, there probably are fewer today.

14,012 -- the number of hardware stores. And 6,749 -- the number of home improvement centers.

23,270 -- the number of sporting goods stores, which doesn't include all the other stores that carry sporting goods along with everything else.

And, finally:

78 million -- the number of Americans who enjoyed a barbecue last year.

So, throw some burgers on the barbie and add to that number.

Happy Father's Day!

Vasché, The Bee's editor and senior vice president, can be contacted at mvasche@modbee.com or 578-2356.

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