Panel Paper: Understanding the Role of Family Mechanisms in Non-Resident Father Families On Child Food Insecurity

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 8:40 AM
Boardroom (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Neha Nanda1, Steven Garasky1, Lenna Nepomnyaschy2 and Daniel Miller3, (1)IMPAQ International, (2)Rutgers University, (3)Boston University
In 2011, over 17.8 million households had limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. Children in 3.9 million homes experienced food insecurity and children in 374,000 homes experienced very low food security. In addition, food security levels vary widely across different household composition. The percentage of households with food-insecure children among single-mother families is three times as high (18.9%) as the percentage of households with food-insecure children among married-couple families (6.3%).

In this paper, we focus on the analysis of child food insecurity in households with nonresident biological fathers. The objective of the study is to ascertain how the contributions of a child’s most immediate family involving the biological mother, father and the stepfather, influence childhood hunger. While several studies have focused on the role of non-resident biological father, fewer studies explore the relationship between the presence of stepfather and child food insecurity. We explore several measures of family involvement including household income by the biological mother and stepfather, formal and informal cash transfers, in-kind payments and visitation by the biological father.

In this study, we use data from the Child Development Supplement (CDS) from the PSID. The PSID, begun in 1968, is a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of individuals and the families in which they reside. The CDS focuses on children between the ages 0-12 years in PSID families in 1997. Interviews were conducted with both the child and the child’s primary caregiver, which usually was the child’s mother. The unit of observation for the analysis is the child.

The CDS contains parents’ responses to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Food Security Module (FSM) to measure household food insecurity. In our analysis we use the child-reference questions to create the Child Food Security Scale. As per the USDA analytic guidelines for households with children, raw scores 0-1 are identified as food secure and raw scores of 2 or higher are identified as food insecure.

Briefly, we find that while the income earned by a stepfather has a significant negative effect on child food insecurity, the mere presence of one does not have any effect in reducing childhood hunger. Also, we do not find any relationship between formal cash support provided by the biological father and childhood hunger. However, the provision of in-kind support by the father is related to lower childhood food insecurity. Overall, the results of this study verify the family mechanisms at play in reducing child food insecurity among children. They provide evidence on the involvement and contributions of not only the biological father but also the stepfather in influencing child hunger and must be considered in policy discussions related to child support, child poverty and child well-being.