Panel: Noncustodial Fathers’ Contributions: Recent Trends and Consequences of Child Support Policy in the United States
(Family and Child Policy)

Friday, November 4, 2016: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Fairchild East (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Laura Cuesta, Rutgers University
Panel Chairs:  Ronald B. Mincy, Columbia University
Discussants:  Lauren Antelo, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and Robert D Plotnick, University of Washington

In the United States, more than one quarter of children live with one parent and approximately a third of custodial mothers are living in poverty. Child support policy aims to protect the economic wellbeing of these families. Understanding patterns of noncustodial fathers’ contributions and the potential consequences of changes to the enforcement program is important to assess the extent to which current child support policy is improving the wellbeing of children in custodial-mother families. This panel presents four papers that examine recent trends and consequences of child support policy in the United States. The first paper examines the trajectories of father’s provisions of child support as the time since parents’ separation increases. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), authors examine child support among parents who were previous married, never married and never cohabited, and never married but previously cohabited. Preliminary findings from nonparametric regressions reveal a consistent increase in formal child support received through age 9. These findings will be further investigated using random effects and individual fixed effects regressions. Potential effects of attrition bias will be addressed using multiple imputation techniques. The second paper investigates the extent to which fathers with multiple families provide support to all their children versus only some, with potentially large consequences for child well-being. Authors use data from the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration program, a federally-funded eight-state intervention for noncustodial parents (NCPs) who are behind in their child support payments and having employment difficulties. Preliminary findings show that while NCPs pay more support, have more contact, and report a better relationship to the children from their most recent family, the differences are not large. The third paper draws on qualitative data from low-income, unmarried parents living in New York to develop hypotheses about which parents would be most likely to set up a legal parenting orders by the time their child is age 5. Authors then use the FFCWS to test these hypotheses in a sample of unmarried parents. Findings suggest that parents are more likely to establish visitation and child support orders when they have higher conflict in their relationships, but are less likely to do so when they can cooperate with each other as co-parents and when the father has disengaged from the child. The fourth paper investigates the effects of the Texas Integrated Child Support System (ICSS), an intervention in which families are enrolled in IV-D services automatically, but are given the choice of opting out of the Child Support Enforcement system. This study is based on a comprehensive study design that includes random assignment, a natural experiment, and pre-post comparison site designs. Results show that the ICSS increased child support collections frequency and average amounts collected. Lower levels of arrears were observed several years after cases were opened. 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 in the United States.

Understanding Child Support Trajectories
Irwin Garfinkel1, Laurel Sariscsany1 and Lenna Nepomnyaschy2, (1)Columbia University, (2)Rutgers University

Do Low-Income Noncustodial Fathers Trade Families? Economic Contributions to Children in Multiple Families
Lawrence Berger, Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer and Angela Maria Guarin Aristizabal, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Evaluating Near-Universal Child Support Enforcement: The Texas Integrated Child Support System (ICSS)
Daniel Schroeder1,2 and Ashweeta Patnaik2, (1)University of Texas, Austin, (2)University of Texas at Austin

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