Panel Paper: The Regularity of Child Support and Its Contribution to Family Self-Sufficiency

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 8 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Laura Cuesta, Rutgers University

One in every two Americans will spend some of their childhood living with a single parent, typically their mother. Single-mother families are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Child support from a noncustodial father is a critical source of income for custodial-mother families. Child support is associated with lower poverty rates among custodial-mother families and better developmental and educational outcomes of children in these families. Yet, the vast majority of this literature focuses on the amount of support received and very little is known about the contributions of child support regularity to child and family well-being. I use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to answer the following question: How is the regularity of child support receipt associated with welfare dependence and food insecurity during early childhood? I use a series of descriptive and multivariate analyses to answer this question, including residualized change and fixed-effects models. This study makes a number of contributions to the literature. First, I examine the importance of regularity of child support receipt, in addition to, and over and above, the amount of receipt. Regularity of receipt has been identified as a key potential contributor to family self-sufficiency but has rarely been explored in other studies because of data limitations. Second, this study explores two very different but related measures of family self-sufficiency (welfare dependency and food insecurity). Third, I use the PSID, a nationally-representative, longitudinal household survey of the U.S. population, which includes detailed information on family income, the full USDA food insecurity scale, and a rich set of individual and family characteristics. These features make the PSID uniquely positioned to examine the association between child support regularity and family self-sufficiency. This study will contribute to our understanding of the role of child support for child and family well-being and will provide key insights for policy recommendations.