Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Child Support and Young Children's Nutritional Status

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Laura Cuesta, Rutgers University
I examine the association between noncustodial father’s monetary contributions, and their children’s nutritional status, using a longitudinal survey that includes child-parent relationship data, children anthropometric measures as well as detailed information on child support.

Child support reduces income poverty among custodial-mother families in a wide range of countries. Less is known about the extent to which this monetary transfer has distinct effects on child wellbeing, especially in less developed countries. Child support may have a distinct influence on child wellbeing by increasing incentives to spend family income on children, influencing family dynamics in beneficial ways or simply avoiding the stigma associated with other nonlabor income such as cash welfare.

This study examines the role of child support on young children’s nutritional status in Colombia. I focus on child chronic malnutrition, a social problem that has harmful consequences on current and future development of children and remains particularly high in the developing world. While Colombia has seen a significant decline of child malnutrition over the last two decades, the percentage of children affected by this phenomenon remains high, especially among the most vulnerable populations. The prevalence of child malnutrition along with dramatic family changes and very little extant research on concomitant child support issues make Colombia an interesting case study for developing countries.

I use data from the Colombian Longitudinal Survey of Wealth, Income, Labor and Land (ELCA) for 499 children aged 0 to 5 in custodial-mother families in urban Colombia. Preliminary analyses using probit models with extensive controls and propensity score matching techniques suggest that there is a statistically significant decline in chronic malnutrition among children who received child support net of other factors associated with chronic malnutrition. While this finding is sensitive to alternative specifications, this preliminary information indicates that noncustodial father’s monetary contributions may have a distinct influence on child wellbeing in developing countries like Colombia. This finding could have implications for policies designed to promote child wellbeing in Colombia and other Latin American countries, especially those focused on improving nutritional outcomes such as conditional cash transfer programs; efforts to integrate the child support system to the social safety net could leverage the potential positive influence that child support has on child wellbeing. Final analyses will include fixed effects models to adjust for time-invariant unobserved factors with persistent effects.