The Stereotype That Black Fathers Are The Most Absent Is Statistically False

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black father and child

There is a long list of untrue stereotypes that have plagued the Black community for years, but the stereotype about Black fathers being “absent” and Black children being “fatherless” is one of those labels that can’t seem to die.

The root of these stereotypes has been made possible by shows like Maury and Jerry Springer, where Black fathers are cast in the role of being a deadbeat dad who abandons their significant others and their children.

The stigma of Black mothers raising their children in single-parent households and the claim that many Black parents have children out of wedlock are what most people consider to be the root of the destruction that plagues the Black community. 

Today, around 70% of Black children are born to parents who aren’t married — though that statistic has absolutely nothing to do with the racial gap in education, employment, income, and incarceration. 

And it's not just white and non-Black people who think this way. Barack Obama gave a Father’s Day speech in 2008 in which he stated, “More than half of all Black children live in single-parent households. Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

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But what about the truth that Black fathers are actually more involved in their children’s lives?

According to a 2013 CDC report, Black dads — whether they live with their children, or not — are more actively involved in their children’s lives than their counterparts of other races.

The report also reveals that among dads who don’t live with their children, Black dads are more likely to be involved in care — including reading to their children, helping them with homework, talking to them about their days, and taking them to activities — than Hispanic or white dads who live apart from their kids.

Also, in a 2018 study of nonmarital births, mothers reported that Black fathers “shared responsibilities more frequently and displayed more effective co-parenting than Hispanic and White fathers.”

It was also revealed in a survey that of over 1,300 Black men ages 18–29, 83% said that having children is somewhat or very important to them.

The reality is that Black fathers are actually more present in their children’s lives — contrary to the stereotype the media portrays.

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Of course, the media plays a huge role in the stigma of the deadbeat dad, but socioeconomic factors factor in, too.

What many people fail to understand is that many “missing fathers” are actually in prison.

1 in 9 Black children has a parent in prison, compared to 1 in 57 white children. Also, 40% of all incarcerated parents are Black. Those imprisoned parents are not voluntarily absent from their children’s lives.

Over 60 percent of prisoners are assigned to prisons more than 100 miles from their original place of residence. 

I also cannot address Black fathers without speaking to the fact that the current systems in place keep families apart. The prison system has been a recurring presence in many Black families lives, forcing children to watch one of their parents spend much of their lives behind bars.

This stigma of Black fathers willingly walking out of their children’s lives needs to end. The false rhetoric that Black fathers “are just going out to get milk” and never come back is a blatantly false narrative that has been perpetuated by the media for far too long. And the truth of the matter is we don’t see this stigmatization when it comes to fathers in other races.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.