- 12,103 dads participated in our survey ‘The Data: Dads Come to Their Census in 2021‘
- The survey consisted of 69 questions that aimed to prove or dispel cliches about fathers.
- The results were analyzed by Martin Flores, a dad, and data scientist with a Ph.D.
Quick, close your eyes! I want you to picture in your mind’s eye… a dad. That’s right, any dad will do, but try to make it as generic a dad as possible. What came to mind? Were they wearing cargo shorts and a tattered pair of decades-old New Balance sneakers, hanging out by a charcoal grill with a beer in hand, yelling at those crazy kids to get off of the freshly mowed lawn? Certainly, no two people’s picture of the prototypical father will be the same, but we’ve all heard the stereotypes: full of jokes, impeccably kept front yards, utter dominance over the thermostat, you name it, we at The Dad have probably made or shared a meme about it. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually put some of those claims to the test?
Well, fortunately, we’ve got just the data to do so! We conducted a survey about dads where we asked dads and dad-friendly individuals probing questions about the intimate details of their everyday lives. Questions such as “Do you frame your kids for your farts” and “How many test clicks do you do on average per grilling session.” This survey got an amazing response, with close to 16,000 unique individuals filling out the questionnaire, with 12,103 dads, 3,126 moms, and 470 that we’re calling dads at heart (i.e. no response).
We brought in a real-life data scientist to help us separate myth from reality. Do dads actually prefer charcoal over gas? How many cargo shorts does the average dad actually own? And how many were actually brave enough to admit that they prefer their steak *gasp*… well done? We’ve got the answers to your burning questions below!
A couple of caveats before we dive in. Links to this survey were posted on the main Facebook page of The Dad (currently has over 2 million fans), so, strictly speaking, is not representative of all dads worldwide, or even of all dads in North America. The data presented below is more of a sample of convenience and offers insights into the inner workings of the minds of the dads who regularly engage with us on our platform, and we’re just trying to have a bit of fun anyway, so we hope you enjoy. Without further adieu, let’s dive into the results!
#1: Are Dad Jokes Actually a Thing?
Legend has it that a dad is not actually a dad until he responds with callous disregard to his hungry child seeking sustenance; “Dad, I’m hungry,” they say. They’re expecting empathy and an immediate desire to make everything right in the world. Instead, they get hit with a heaping helping of, “Hi hungry… I’m dad, ” followed up by a side of guffaws of joy, because at no point will the dad ever experience another high like the first amazing dad joke. That is of course until the child realizes what just happened and clarifies, “No Dad, can you make me a sandwich?” POOF. You’re a sandwich!
Probably the most well-known dad stereotype is that of the dad joke. From the worst best one-liners to terrible puns, few things in life are enjoyable as our feeble attempts to elicit laughter from our loved ones, even if we inevitably fail miserably. But what did our survey actually tell us about the frequency and hilarity of dad jokes?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a whopping 95.2% of the dads who responded to this survey reported making at least one dad joke on a daily basis. We’ve apparently got some real comedians, as more than half of our respondents indicated that they tell at least 3 dad jokes every single day. Unfortunately, our loved ones don’t seem to have as much appreciation for comedic timing as we do, as 49.6% of the dads who reported telling at least one dad joke per day said that “most of their jokes” elicit a groan from their partner and/or children, and only 3.9% said that none of their jokes elicited such a groan. Whether or not it’s because those jokes were completely ignored remains unclear.
We further broke down the data to answer the question of, “What is the relationship between the joke to groan ratio and the number of daily dad jokes?” The results of this analysis can be seen in Table 1, where the percentages are reported as column percentages. What this table shows is that for dads who only tell 1 – 2 dad jokes per day, 44.5% said that only a few of their jokes elicit groans from their loved ones, and 38.2% said that most of their jokes get such a response. In contrast, for the dads who tell more than 6 dad jokes on a daily basis, a full 69% (Nice) said that their family members groan at most of their jokes. If you do the math (which we did), this represents a statistically significant association between the number of dad jokes and the percentage of such jokes that result in wails of pain from partners and children. But at the end of the day… isn’t that kind of the point?
Table 1: Frequency of groans per dad joke as a function of the number of dad jokes
#2: Thermostat Dominance
Moving on from the gimmes, things are really starting to heat up. At least, they are if those kids won’t close the damned doors, I mean come on you’re letting all the cold air out! What do you think, we’re paying to cool the whole neighborhood over here? As we all know, thermostat settings are non-negotiable, and if it’s not icy cold, you’re doing it wrong.
We’ve all seen the memes. Dads love keeping the thermostat as low as possible, and we’ve got a sixth sense that goes off the moment someone makes even the slightest adjustment. It’s been covered in popular media such as Daddy’s Home 2, Family Guy, and even on The Dad itself. But just how cold do we actually like it, and how much authority do we actually have over our beloved Forced Air Units? We asked, and you responded!
When it comes to the ideal thermostat temperature, we really do like it chilly. A full 88.6% of dads preferred that the thermostat be set at less than 70 degrees in winter. However, this does leave 21.4% who prefer a temperature above 70 degrees, which is a bit more than we’d have expected. However, even though we have a strong desire to freeze the chestnuts off of our family members, we dads exert a lot less control over the temperature than we might have been led to believe.
For example, 54.7% of dads reported having no thermostat security whatsoever. That’s right, it’s a total free-for-all in more than half of our homes. Madness! It turns out that very few dads actually cared enough to legitimately guard the thermostat; of the dads with some form of security, 85.3% indicated that the security they DO have is that “It’s programmed,” which, when it comes down to it, isn’t even really security at all since as we all know our kids are a lot more tech-savvy than we are. Somewhat hilariously, 4.2% of the dads with some form of security, that’s about 230 for those of you keeping score at home, actually have their thermostats in a lockbox.
Similar to what we did with the dad jokes, we wanted to look at whether or not having security actually makes it less likely that the family will mess with the thermostat. The results are presented in Table 2 below, again as column percentages. Of the dads who have no thermostat security, 70.4% reported that their family members mess with it at least occasionally. That number drops to about 60% for households with some form of security. Interestingly, households that actually have their thermostats in a lockbox are slightly more likely to report that their families always mess with the thermostat (12.4% versus 11.6% for password-protected thermostats, and only 6.0% for programmed thermostats). So in our humble opinion, if you don’t want your family messing with the temperature, just program it at a reasonable setting that everyone can appreciate!
Table 2: Thermostat Security
#3: Dad Attire
Go back to that picture of the quintessential dad that we asked you to conjure up at the beginning of this article. What were they wearing (heh)? Chances are that you at least said New Balance and/or Cargo Shorts, but how true to life is this actually? We asked our dads three questions related to the ultimate dad attire: First off, what do you consider to be the ultimate dad shoe? Next, how many pairs of cargo shorts do you own? And finally, how old is your oldest shirt? We’re going to look at each of these in detail, and see if the responses to each of these questions allow us to predict responses to the other questions.
A quick google search of “Dad Shoes” brings up two contenders for the ultimate dad shoe: New Balance and Nike Air Monarchs. But what do our data actually show? Unsurprisingly, the clear favorite in the battle over fatherhood footwear was New Balance, with 46.5% of respondents indicating that those are the ultimate dad shoe. Nike Air Monarchs came in a distant second, with 13.0% of respondents, and flip flops came in at a close third with 12.1% of respondents. Strangely enough, 7.4% of respondents indicated that they believe Crocs to be the ultimate dad shoe. The IP addresses of these respondents have been tracked, and they have since been blocked on all of our platforms. We don’t know how they got in, and sincerely apologize for this terrible, terrible oversight. Finally, as it turns out, only 4.6% of our dads got the correct answer, which is sandals with socks.
Moving on up from the footwear, no lower body attire is complete without legwear, and no dad is complete without a pair of cargo shorts to complement their awesome shoes (i.e. not Crocs). We asked our dads just how many cargo shorts they actually own, and an astonishing 83% own at least one pair, with 33.3% owning 1 – 2 pairs, 38.6% own 3 – 5 pairs, and 10.7% owning more than 6 pairs of cargo shorts, presumably with extra pockets to hold their other cargo shorts.
So we’ve got our New Balance and cargo shorts on, now all we need is an old shirt to complete the dad ensemble. We asked our dads just how old their oldest shirt actually was, and big picture… we dads really do wear some old ass clothes. Out of the more than 12,000 dads who responded to this survey, 87.3% have a shirt that’s at least 7 years old, and almost 40% still wear a t-shirt that’s 16+ years old. Now to be fair, looking at Table 3, we can see that this is mostly a function of age since older dads tend to have older clothes, but apparently, 10% of our 20 something-year-old dads have a shirt that’s more than 16 years old, meaning that they finally grew into the oversized clothes their thrifty patients bought them.
Table 3: How old is your oldest shirt. Results are broken down by age group
Putting it all together
We wanted to look more in-depth at cargo shorts ownership. Specifically, one of the most burning questions we here at The Dad needed answered was: Can we predict whether or not dads will own cargo shorts based on their shoe preference and oldest shirt? To test this hypothesis, we ran two regression models that allow us to predict how much more likely one group of dads is to own cargo shorts relative to a reference group. For the first model, we looked at cargo shorts ownership as a function of shoe choice, with the reference group being dads who chose New Balance. The results of this analysis are presented in Table 4 below. The way to read these numbers is, if the number is above 1, that group of dads is more likely to own at least one pair of cargo shorts than dads who chose New Balance as the ultimate dad shoe. In contrast, if the number is below one, those dads are less likely to own at least one pair of cargo shorts. We’ve put asterisks next to the odds ratios that represent a statistically significant difference.
In general, shoe choice does not seem to predict cargo shorts ownership, with two major exceptions. Dads who chose New Balance have 35% higher odds of owning at least one pair of cargo shorts in comparison to dads who chose flip flops or none of the above. It should be noted that at least 75% of dads in every shoe choice category own at least one pair of cargo shorts though, so take that for what it’s worth.
Table 4: How much higher (or lower) are the odds of owning at least one pair of cargo shorts based on the choice of the ultimate dad shoe?
Looking at relationships between cargo shorts ownership and shirt age (with 4 years or less as the reference group), the results of which are shown in Table 5, the results are much clearer. As the age of the oldest shirt increases, the odds clearly trend up, indicating that whatever the underlying factors are that lead to our dads to hold onto shirts that are well past their prime seems to be influencing them to also opt for utility over comfort when choosing shorts.
Table 5: How much higher (or lower) are the odds of owning at least one pair of cargo shorts based on the oldest shirt age?
#4: Lawn Care
Let’s face it, dads, sometimes the days can be hard. With all of our loved ones constantly messing with the thermostat and refusing to even pretend to be entertained by our jokes, sometimes the only recourse is to get out onto the front yard with some war-torn shoes and an old shirt and escape into the one hobby that we can truly call our own, which is the wonderful world of lawn care maintenance. Seriously though, lawns are apparently super important to Americans, with almost 80 friggin percent saying that a lawn is an important feature when renting or buying a home. That being said though… just how important is it that we actually handle the lawn care ourselves?
We asked our dads how they felt about lawn care, and only 15.7% said that they don’t care about their lawns. Most (56.3%) said that it’s a hassle, but that they take pride in a well-kept lawn, while the remaining 27.8% said that it’s a way of life. As we are wont to do, we broke the numbers down a bit further. In addition to asking how they felt about lawn care, we also asked our dads whether or not they had the best lawn in the neighborhood, and dads for whom lawn care is a way of life are clearly very confident in their abilities, with 83.3% saying that they’re at least contenders for best lawn in the neighborhood (Table 6).
Table 6: Lawn care feels versus lawn care quality
Some miscellaneous facts related to lawn care, of the dads we surveyed, 78.4% have a specific lawn care shoe. Of the dads that have lawn care-specific shoes, 68.1% use old sneakers, while almost 10% use crocs. Additionally, regardless of shoe preference, roughly 40-50% of dads use shoes that are at least 5-6 years old. Additionally, about 23% of dads use lawn care to take a break, and that includes 4% of the dads who don’t even care about their lawns.
#5: Turning the car around
The last deep-dive analysis touches on a topic that we’ve all heard of. Picture this: you’re in the car on your way to take your child or children to do some fun activity, and for whatever reason, they decide that while you’re all on the way to do something that they specifically asked to do, this would be a good time to lose their shit. You try your best to plead with them, but then you just can’t take anymore and without even thinking about what you’re saying, the threat bomb gets dropped: “If you don’t stop RIGHT NOW I swear to god I’ll turn this car around.” Immediately upon uttering these words, you look into your review mirror to get a glimpse of their reaction and accidentally notice that you’re aging like Matt Damon at the end of Saving Private Ryan.
Of the dads we surveyed, 46% said they never threaten to turn the car around, 25.2% said that they make the threat at least once per month, 19.2% said that they make the threat at least once per week. I hope that the remaining 10% have power steering because they said that they threaten to turn the car around every day. In addition to asking how often they make the threat, we also asked whether or not they’ve actually ever turned the car around. You can see the breakdowns in Table 7. According to these results, the dads who make the threat more frequently have actually followed through more frequently, but still, the rate of follow-through is less than 50%. Just goes to show that all of our children have the potential to be world-class poker players because they know that you want to go to Wally World just as much as they do, and so have no problem calling your bluff.
Table 7: How often do we turn the car around?
We wanted to look at whether or not the frequency of threatening to turn the car around was related to the number of children the dads have, and those data are shown in Table 8. These results show that the more kids they had, the more likely they were to drop the turn-around threat. For example, of the dads with just one kid, 13.7% threaten to turn the car around at least once a week, and 9.3% threaten to turn the car around every day. These numbers increase to 22.8% and 15.7% for dads with more than 5 kids respectively. The trends are similar when we consider how often they actually follow through with the threat.
Table 8: Frequency of threatening to turn the car around versus the number of kids
#6: Cooking Preferences
Few things in life are more satisfying than putting all of your time, love, and energy into preparing a meal for the family that you just know they’ll love… even if it turns out that your significant other is the only one who’s actually going to eat it because you made the mistake of introducing your children to chicken nuggets that one time, and now that’s all they’ll eat. When it comes to cooking, 47.0% of our dads said that they can create basic meals from scratch, and 43.3% said that they were Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen (gourmet dishes, yelling at the kids, all that good stuff). Additionally, 62.3% prefer their steaks done rare to medium-rare. That number increases to more than 90% when we just look at our self-described Gordon Ramsays. However, when it comes to grilling, we’ve got some news for you. Everyman Hank Hill is definitely on to something because 55% of our dads prefer gas to charcoal for grilling. However, whatever your preference, one thing we can almost all agree on is the importance of test clicks, with 90.1% responding that they do at least two test clicks per grilling session.
#7: Miscellaneous Facts and Fictions
We’re going to close out this report on the followers of The Dad with a rundown of some information that, while not fitting into tidy narratives like the rest of this list, are interesting enough in their own right that we felt they deserved a shoutout nonetheless.
- We really do love our sports. Only 14% of our respondents said that they don’t watch any sports. Football is by far the most-watched sport among our respondents, with 43.2% to be exact saying that NFL or NCAA football was their favorite. Surprisingly, NHL was the next most favorite sport to watch at 10.9%, while baseball was slightly lower at 10.3%.
- When asked about their adult beverage of choice, Beer (41.9%) was the most popular, followed by whiskey (25.1%).
- Apparently, our kids just don’t understand the value of money, as 81.2% of our respondents said that their kids think that money grows on trees. Of course, that’s why the dad tax is a thing. No, really, 52.6% of our dads said that they garnish their kids’ fast food orders on every order. An additional 34.5% said they do it only when their kids aren’t looking, which adds up to more than 87% of our dads making ample use of the dad tax.
- When it comes to bringing in the groceries… we’re apparently more bark than bite, as 70% of our dads admitted to taking at least two trips to bring in all the groceries.
- We might not be as eager to spend all day in an airport as the memes might suggest, as 82.6% of our dads arrive at the airport two hours or less before their flight.
So as it turns out, we are a fairly predictable group of people, with many of the cliches actually being borne out in the data. We hope you enjoyed our first deep dive into this rich dataset. We’ve got a lot more planned, so we hope you’re looking forward to it, because at the end of the day, what we’re really trying to do here is help you come to your census!
[APPLAUSE BEGINS HERE]