WASHINGTON - Men who have earned a college degree plan fewer children, but tend to fuss over them more than guys with less schooling.
That's the word from the government's first look at fathers and parenting, the latest version of a study that has always concentrated on women in the past.
Men who have graduated from college expect to father two children while those without a high school diploma plan on nearly three - 2.9 - according to the report released Wednesday by the National Center on Health Statistics.
The study showed that among all men 22 to 44 years old, 47 percent with less than a high school education have had a child outside of marriage, compared with 6 percent of college graduates.
And researchers said fathers with higher education levels were also more likely to play with and bathe their children than those who didn't finish high school.
The study also found that dads are just as likely as moms to find parenting worthwhile despite the expense and effort involved.
Some 98 percent of fathers and 97 percent of mothers told government researchers they agreed with the statement: "The rewards of being a parent are worth it despite the cost and work it takes."
"Almost everyone agrees that being a parent is something that's worth it," said Gladys Martinez, a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics and co-author of the report.
While Martinez said it's hard to summarize the study, it does show that fathers are involved in the lives of their children. Even those who don't live with their children have some level of activity with them.
For example, the study found that 74 percent of resident fathers feed or eat meals with their young children every day. And 9 percent of fathers who don't live with the children eat with them daily.
The finding was included in a report on the sixth National Survey of Family Growth conducted in 2002-2003. The data released Wednesday focused on men aged 15 to 44. Previous reports have studied women, while this one looked at men for the first time.
The study found that 22 million men lived with their children, 4 million did not live with their children and 3 million live with some but not all of their children.
Other findings included:
-Some 25 percent of black fathers had their first child before they were 20 years old, compared with 19 percent of Hispanic men and 11 percent of whites.
-Among unmarried white men, 19 percent have had a child, compared with one-third of black and Hispanic men.
-At the time of their first child, 37 percent of black fathers were married, compared with 52 percent of Hispanics and 77 percent of whites.
-Hispanic and black fathers were more likely to be cohabiting with the mother of their child when their first child was born - 32 and 24 percent, respectively - compared with white fathers, 12 percent.
-For men who first had sex between 1995 and 2002, some 82 percent said they or their partner used a contraceptive. That compares with just 39 percent among those who first had sexual intercourse before 1980.
On the Net:
National Center for Health Statistics: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs