Fathers and Child Support: What's Associated with Payments and What Are Their Effects?
(Family and Child Policy)
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Daniel R. Meyer, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Panel Chairs: Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Rutgers University
Discussants: David J. Pate, Jr., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Lauren Antelo, U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement
In the US, more than one quarter of children live with only one of their parents while the other parent lives elsewhere, and close to a third of custodial mothers are living in poverty. In Latin America, about one fifth of children are living with one parent and at a greater risk of poverty than those in two-parent families. Child support is an important policy that aims to protect the child’s access to economic resources of the nonresident parent and through this intra-household transfer improve the parent-child relationship. This panel includes three papers that explore some of the causes and consequences of child support payments.
The first paper of this panel investigates the influence of joint legal custody on child support payments and compliance for never-married parents. Legal custody stipulates the rights and obligations to make major decisions for children and can be awarded to parents separately from residential custody. The prevalence of joint legal custody has increased among nonmarital cases in Wisconsin during the late 1990s and the 2000s, although the majority of these children still reside with their mothers. This study uses propensity score matching to adjust for preexisting differences between parents with joint legal custody and those without. It finds mixed results on whether joint legal custody increases child support payments and compliance.
The second paper examines both factors associated with and the consequences of child support. It examines how different measures of father involvement (including child support payments) are associated with one another and how they relate to the nonresident father’s and children’s perceptions of closeness in their relationships. A factor analysis shows three distinct fathering constructs: paternal engagement, in-kind/informal child support, and formal child support. Among them, in-kind and informal child support is more closely correlated with paternal engagement than is formal child support. These findings are consistent with the qualitative literature that finds parents consider informal support more important than formal child support in low-income communities.
The third paper examines the association between noncustodial father’s monetary contributions and their children’s nutritional status, using data from the Colombian Longitudinal Survey of Wealth, Income, Labor and Land (ELCA) for 499 children aged 0 to 5. 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. 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.
The panel’s discussants are a federal policy analyst in child support and an academic with expertise in noncustodial fathers’ perspectives. This panel discusses implications for child support policy to improve psychological, material, and nutritional wellbeing of children and their nonresident parents. We anticipate a rich dialogue about the extent to which these papers provide evidence useful for policy-making in the US and other country contexts.