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Dads are bad for the economy

Courtesy of Weldon Owen

The stock market has been doing a spot-on impersonation of my son’s drawing of a mako shark’s teeth ( \/\/\/\/\/\/ ). But what’s causing it? Ah, the $14,660,657,909,454 question. Of course, if you ask seven people, you’ll get eight different theories. But I’ve got a pretty solid idea who we can blame, at least in part: fathers.

I know, I know. I can hear the men now: hey Benedict Judas Arnold Iscariot Walker Lindh, what in the Wilkes Booth are you doing? Why are you throwing us under the bus? I’m not throwing you under the bus. The truth is fathers—good ones and bad ones—are having a damaging effect on the American economy is very distinct ways.

Absence makes the deficit grow bigger. In 2008, the National Fatherhood Initiative released a report titled The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man. And no, it's not about a TV show where they clone Lee Majors 1,600 times. The title refers to the amount that the federal government spends to support father-absent homes (34 percent of children currently live without their biological father). That astronomical, 12-digit number is made up of (but not limited to) child support enforcement for single mothers, tax credits for single mothers and primary caretakers, food, nutrition and housing programs, and Medicaid. Bad dads equal two Warren Buffetts.

Here’s another way of looking at it: The price tag for uninvolved dads is one-eight—one f#$@ing eight—of what the government spends annually on defense. Bad dads equal a lot of missiles, drones and stealth bombers.

The modern dad: family first, business second. Earlier this summer, the Boston College Center for Work and Families released The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted. They surveyed 1,000 fathers who worked at Fortune 500 companies to learn about their perspectives and priorities when it comes to work and family.

Two-thirds of these fathers say "work is only a small part of who I am." More than half say that if their spouse made enough money for their family to live comfortably, they would be okay not working. When asked to rank the importance of various job qualities, "allows flexible working" ranked higher than "high income" and "good advancement opportunities." (Twenty-seven percent of these dads—close to one in three—already have compressed workweeks.)

Based on this survey, here’s an snapshot of the modern working dad: he doesn’t want work to be a big part of his life, he wouldn’t work if his partner earned enough, and the top quality he likes in a job is the ability to control how he comes and goes. If you were to describe this man to an executive hiring manager, they would see fickle, undedicated, and self-absorbed.

However, this dude is great for his family: he builds his work schedule around soccer games and violin recitals; he’d rather spend his time on Power Rangers than PowerPoint. I assure you his kids love that he’s fickle, undedicated and self-absorbed. The father from a half century ago—the man who had a family in between work shifts—was far better for economic productivy. To become a more involved father, you have to become less involved in something else. In other words, being a better dad means the rest of us being bit by those mako shark teeth.