Defying enduring stereotypes about black fatherhood, a federal survey of American parents shows that by most measures, black fathers who live with their children are just as involved as other dads who live with their kids — or more so. For instance, among fathers who lived with young children, 70% of black dads said they bathed, diapered or dressed those kids every day, compared with 60% of white fathers and 45% of Latino fathers, according to a report released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Nearly 35% of black fathers who lived with their young children said they read to them daily, compared with 30% of white dads and 22% of Latino dads. The report was based on a federal survey that included more than 3,900 fathers between 2006 and 2010 — a trove of data seen as the gold standard for studying fatherhood in the United States. In many cases, the differences between black fathers and those of other races were not statistically significant, researchers said.
The findings echo earlier studies that counter simple stereotypes characterizing black fathers as missing in action. When it comes to fathers who live with their kids, “blacks look a lot like everyone else,” said Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center who has previously studied the topic. And in light of the negative stereotypes about black fathers, “that is a story in itself.”
In Watts, Bryan August-Jones battles the stereotype daily. Every weekday, he wakes his three sons before sunrise, gets them dressed, then ferries them to the baby sitter and to school. On weekends, he takes them bicycling or to Red Lobster, which his youngest son — “a little fancy guy” — prefers over McDonalds. His Latina mother-in-law and her family think black men cannot be good fathers, but “I prove them wrong all the time,” August-Jones said.