Father’s Day will be celebrated on Sunday, June 16, 2019. We’ve compiled some key stats about parenting and fatherhood in North Carolina.

A record number of households in North Carolina are headed by single dads.

There were 98,434 single father households in NC in 2017, an increase of more than 7,000 since 2016 and the highest number observed since 1960, when just 7,769 households with children were headed by single fathers.Rising number of single father headed households, 1960-2017

Single father households represented 8.1% of all NC households with children in 2017, the highest share of single father households since 1960, when it was just 1.1%.

The percentage of households in North Carolina with children under 18 is decreasing.

In 2017, there were 1.2 million households in North Carolina with at least one child under the age of 18, representing 30.6% all NC households.

This represents a historic low for the share of households with children. In 1960 and 1970, over half of NC households had children—60.2% and 52%, respectively.

This proportion has steadily declined, reflecting the combined impact of longer life expectancy (individuals are living for more years after their children have grown up) as well as declining fertility rates and delayed childbearing.

Most households with children in NC (89%) are headed by a biological, adoptive, or step parent.

Among the 1.2 million households with children:

  • 716,000 or 59.1% are headed by a married couple. This represents the highest rate of married-couple-headed households with children since 2009.
  • 269,396 or 22.2% are headed by a single mother*, the lowest number and lowest rate of single mother headed households since 2007 (272K and 22.8%).
  • 98,434 or 8.1% are headed by a single father*, the highest number and highest rate observed since 1960.

*Single mothers and fathers include individuals who are married but with spouse absent, as well as individuals who have an unmarried partner living in the household.8.1% of households with children headed by single father in 2017

The remaining 11% of households with children are headed by an individual who is not the mother or father of the child. They may be grandparents or other relatives, and the parents of the child may also be living in the house.

Defining “father” for this analysis

We are limiting our analysis to household heads age 15 and older who have at least one dependent child under the age of 18 living in the household. Children can be biological, adopted, or step sons or daughters.

Fathers who are not the head of the household (or married to the household head) and fathers who do not reside with their children are not included in this analysis.

Note: There were 128,286 NC households in 2017 with children under 18 living in the household headed by an individual who is not the mother or father of the child. They may be grandparents or other relatives, and the parents of the child may also be living in the house.

Defining “single father” for this analysis

Single fathers include fathers without a co-resident partner, as well as fathers who are married but their spouse is absent (meaning they live in a separate house) and fathers who are cohabiting with an unmarried partner.

Who is a “single father”?

Among the 508,000 NC fathers who were the head were the head of household in 2017, nearly one in five—19%—were single fathers. Some fathers were more likely to be single fathers:

  • Young fathers (ages 15-29) were most likely to be single fathers (32%), followed by adults ages 30-39 (21%).
  • Black (35%) and Hispanic (26%) fathers were more likely to be single than white fathers (16%).
  • The probability that a father is a single father decreases as his educational attainment increases: more than 30% of fathers with a high school diploma or less were single fathers compared to 15% of fathers with an associate degree and 7% of fathers with a bachelor’s or higher.
  • Lower-income fathers are more likely to be single fathers: 42% of fathers in poverty were single fathers versus 13% of fathers in households with incomes at 200% of the federal poverty line or higher.Which dads are most likely to be single?

Single does not mean “without a partner”

The growth in “single fathers” has been driven by a rising number of fathers who live with an unmarried partner. Between 1990 and 2017, the number of single fathers increased from nearly 36,600 to more than 98,400, an increase of nearly 61,900 or 169% growth.

  • The number of single fathers without a partner in the household grew from 22,000 to 35,300, an increase of 13,300 or 60%.
  • The number of single fathers with a cohabiting partner grew from 14,500 to 63,100, an increase of 48,600 or 334%.

In 1990, 40% of single fathers were living with an unmarried partner; this proportion had increased 24 percentage points to 64% in 2017.Majority of single fathers live with a partner

Young fathers, Black and Latino fathers, fathers without a college degree, and fathers living in or near poverty are more likely to be living with an unmarried partner. As a result, these fathers are more likely to be classified as “single fathers.”

Please let us know if you have other questions that we can address in future blog posts by writing demography@unc.edu. To receive monthly updates about demographic trends in North Carolina, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


  • How can we help you learn more about your community?

    Contact Us