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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. This study examines the total package of child support that mothers receive from the nonresident fathers of their children, by focusing on three components of total support: formal cash, informal cash, and in-kind support. Using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this article considers how contributions change over time and the effects of child support enforcement on these contributions. Findings suggest that total cash support received drops precipitously over the first 15 months of living apart as informal support drops off and then increases slightly after 45 months as the increase in formal support overtakes the decrease in informal support.
While the study finds no effect of enforcement on total support received in the first 5 years after a nonmarital birth, the substantial differences in total cash support received by the length of time that parents have not been cohabiting suggest that strong enforcement may be efficacious over time. Because of the increase in the rates of divorce and nonmarital child-bearing in the past 30 years, over half of children born during this period will spend some time in a single-parent family Bumpass and Sweet Child support paid by the nonresident parent usually the father is an important source of income for mothers and children.
Research from the past 2 decades shows that strong child support enforcement is associated with increases in the amount of formal support received by children from their nonresident fathers. Some qualitative research suggests that informal child support payments are quite common among unwed and low-income nonresident fathers and that strong child support enforcement le fathers to substitute formal support for informal support.
Yet qualitative research reveals little about 1 the magnitude of informal cash and in-kind contributions that nonresident fathers make, especially to nonmarital children; 2 the magnitude of the effect of child support enforcement on these types of contributions; and 3 most important, the effect of child support enforcement on total formal plus informal child support contributions. Today, 40 percent of all births and 72 percent of black births are to unmarried mothers Hamilton, Martin, and Venturawho are more likely to be poor and less likely to receive formal child support than are ly married mothers Fields ; Grall Informal and in-kind contributions from fathers may also be an important source of support for these families.
Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this article describes the package of support formal cash, informal cash, and in-kind that nonresident fathers provide for their children and examines changes over time in this package of support. This study also estimates the effect of strong child support enforcement on each type of support and, most important, on the total amount of cash support received. Yoram Weiss and Robert Willis were the first to model willingness to pay.
Willingness to pay child support when ability to pay is held constant varies among fathers and over time. Fathers who have lived with the mother and child are likely to have a stronger attachment to the child than those who have not, and they are therefore likely to have a greater willingness to pay Johnson Evidence suggests that support and visitation are positively associated, though the causal path is not clear Seltzer, Schaeffer, and Charng ; Veum ; McLanahan et al. Once the married, cohabiting, or romantic relationship ends, most fathers and mothers move on to other Single father just looking for my Oakland Maryland, and many bear new children.
Empirical evidence confirms that contact with children for some, but not all Cheadle, Amato, and Kingfathers declines over time Seltzer et al. Although the theories above discuss child support as a one-dimensional concept, child support payments can actually be differentiated into formal, informal either cash or in-kindand total cash support. Formal child support involves a legal requirement established by a court or child support enforcement agency.
Under this requirement, the nonresident parent must pay a specified amount of child support. Formal child support obligations are now, more often than not, withheld from the earnings of the obligor and sent to a state agency that then forwards the payment to the custodial parent.
Informal cash child support Single father just looking for my Oakland Maryland a direct transfer from the nonresident father to the mother and involves no legal obligation. Several quantitative studies describe the prevalence of informal and in-kind support from fathers Teachman ; Nord and Zill ; Rangarajan and Gleason ; Greene and Moore ; Roberts ; Meyer and Cancian ; Miller and Knox ; Seltzer and Schaeffer ; Garasky et al.
Other evidence suggests that fathers who pay formally or have support order contribute more informal or in-kind support than those who do not pay formally or have such an order Rangarajan and Gleason ; Roberts ; Meyer and Cancian ; Seltzer and Schaeffer ; Garasky et al. Although some fathers might prefer the distance from the mother that comes with a formal child support payment or the convenience of transferring support through income withholding, much evidence suggests that fathers, particularly low-income fathers, prefer informal payments Furstenberg, Sherwood, and Sullivan ; Edin ; Edin and Lein ; Brhaw and Skinner ; Waller and Plotnick ; Pate ; Magnuson ; Pate For example, if the mother makes access to the child difficult, the father can withhold support payments.
Second, research suggests that low-income fathers have numerous barriers to finding and keeping regular jobs. These barriers include low levels of education, health problems, poor work histories, and prior incarceration records Garfinkel, McLanahan, and Hanson ; Sorensen and Zibman ; Waller and Plotnick ; Pate ; Cancian and Meyer ; Sinkewicz and Garfinkel These barriers make it unlikely that they will be able to consistently meet their formal child support obligations, making informal payments preferable.
There is also evidence that low-income mothers prefer receiving informal support to receiving formal child support payments Edin ; Edin and Lein First, mothers may want to avoid government involvement in their personal affairs. Second, mothers may prefer to receive informal payments in order to encourage fathers to be involved in child rearing, so long as the father is willing to pay as much or more than what the legal obligation would be.
Finally, both mothers and fathers may prefer informal support if the mother is on welfare. However, though these parents may prefer informal to formal payments, most welfare recipients are not free to choose; the mother relinquishes her right to formal child support as a condition of welfare receipt.
Theory and prior research discussed above suggest the following hypotheses: 1 when couples first split up, informal support will be the predominant mode of child support; 2 informal cash and in-kind child support will decrease as willingness to pay decreases; and 3 formal support will become more common over time as voluntary willingness to pay declines.
Although declining willingness to pay over time provides a theoretical rationale for public child support enforcement and an ample empirical literature suggests that states with stronger child support enforcement regimes collect more child support Garfinkel and Klawitter ; Beller and Graham ; Garfinkel and Robins ; Meyer et al. If the amount that the father is willing to pay and the actual amount of informal payments are lower than the required formal obligation, enforcement can be expected to shift all informal support into formal support. If enforcement is effective, such a shift can be expected to increase formal support to the required amount and, as a result, to increase total support.
This is particularly clear for fathers who do not voluntarily pay anything.
In this case, if he continues to provide the same amount of support, supplementing the formal obligation with informal support, there would be no change in the amount of total support received. However, if he perceives the formal obligation as a maximum and does not supplement the formal obligation, total support would decrease. There are two other possible scenarios in which the establishment of a formal child support obligation may be accompanied by a short-term decrease in total child support.
Informal support might therefore cease before formal support begins. The lag between application for formal support and receipt of it can be quite lengthy; paternity must be established if it was not ly establishedan order must be obtained, and a payment must be secured on the order. Second, if a father is not yet subject to a formal child support obligation, the mother can use the formal system as a bargaining tool; the desire to avoid an even higher formal obligation induces the father to contribute more informally than he would voluntarily pay England and Folbre Once the mother or the welfare department initiates the process to obtain a formal award, however, the father no longer has an incentive to voluntarily pay more than that award, and payment can be expected to drop to reflect his original willingness to pay.
In short, theory provides no clear prediction about the short-term effects of strong child support enforcement on total child support payments. If this is the case, the gap between the formal obligation and willingness to pay increases over time, and the effect of enforcement on total child support received is likely to increase over time.
Thus, the current study examines two additional hypotheses: child support enforcement will Single father just looking for my Oakland Maryland more effective as the child support obligation ages, and total cash support will be higher in states with stronger enforcement regimes. Although the preceding discussion notes the ample empirical evidence that strong child support enforcement is associated with increases in formal child support payments Garfinkel and Klawitter ; Beller and Graham ; Garfinkel and Robins ; Meyer et al.
Furthermore, because much of the above research analyzes data from samples dominated by ly married parents and those whose cohabiting or romantic relationships ended some time ago, even less is known about the relationship between enforcement and support for unmarried parents with young children. Finally, all of these studies are based on cross-sectional data from samples with a mix of child support obligations less than 1 year to up to 21 years.
None of the research focuses on changes in the effectiveness of enforcement as the obligation ages and willingness to pay declines. The current study contributes to prior literature in several ways. First, it focuses on parents with nonmarital births.
Such births now represent 40 percent of all births in the United States and a large and growing proportion of the child support enforcement caseload. Finally, the study examines the effects of time on the relationship between enforcement and child support outcomes during the first 5 years of the potential child support obligation. This research uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which examines the conditions and capabilities of new unwed mothers and fathers as well as the well-being of their children. The baseline data, collected between andare from a sample of 4, live births 3, nonmarital and 1, marital in 75 hospitals in 20 large U.
Follow-up interviews were conducted when the child was 1, 3, and 5 years old.
For a detailed discussion of the Fragile Families study de, see Nancy Reichman and colleagues This article uses data from the first four interview waves. These data hereafter are respectively described as the baseline, 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year surveys. This study is based on 4, repeated observations 2, unique observations of mothers who had nonmarital births, who were not cohabiting with the father of the focal child at each particular wave, who were reinterviewed at least at the 1-year follow-up most mothers were interviewed at subsequent waves as welland for whom data are not missing on the dependent variables at each wave.
Actual sample sizes for each follow-up wave are 1, 1-year survey1, 3-year surveyand 1, 5-year survey. Although some cohabiting fathers have child support orders if the mother received public assistance or if they were separated lythese fathers are excluded from the main analyses for two reasons. Second, they are excluded because measures of informal cash and in-kind contributions for cohabiting fathers are not compatible with those for noncohabiting fathers. Appendix table A1 compares the analysis sample with the sample dropped for missing data.
Although the proportion of unwed fathers identified and interviewed in the Fragile Families study is very large compared with the proportions in other national surveys, about 25 percent of fathers in the Fragile Families data were not interviewed at the baseline survey. Fathers not interviewed at baseline also are much less likely to exhibit als of commitment to and involvement with the child Teitler, Reichman, and Sprachman Therefore, focusing only on fathers who were interviewed could introduce substantial nonresponse bias.
However, mothers may underestimate the level of child support received from the father. This type of bias may be particularly problematic for measuring informal and in-kind support if fathers make direct purchases for children and mothers are unaware of those purchases. In addition, mothers on public assistance may underestimate the amount of formal support from fathers because the support is mostly diverted by the state to recoup welfare costs.
For example, 76 percent of mothers and 72 percent of fathers report informal support; 12 percent of mothers and 16 percent of fathers report formal support; and 74 percent of mothers and 87 percent of fathers report in-kind support. This study measures several types of contributions that fathers make to their children: formal child support, which is received through an established child support order; informal cash support, which includes any financial contributions made outside the formal system; total cash support, which is the sum of formal child support and informal cash support; and noncash contributions, which are referred to as in-kind support.
Mothers are asked how much formal and informal cash support the father paid in the 12 months prior to the interview. Therefore, a measure is created to examine child support received per month of eligibility to receive formal support. It is based on the of months that mothers have had support order. For those without support order, the amount of formal support received is coded as 0. To measure informal cash support, the amount reported is divided by the of months that parents have not been cohabiting or the entire reporting period for those not cohabiting the entire time.
The monthly formal and informal cash are summed to construct the amount of total cash support received per month. Mothers are asked how often in the year prior to the interview the father purchased clothes, toys, medicine, food, or anything else for the. Possible responses include often, sometimes, rarely, or never. Among items that mothers say fathers often purchase, food is the most commonly reported item 22 percent of fathers are said to purchase this often. This is followed by clothes 19 percenttoys 17 percentmedicine 15 percentand other items 9 percent. Ideally, a dollar value for measures of in-kind support could be identified, but the structure of the survey questions make this impossible.
First, it is not possible to estimate how much of an item was purchased. These suggest that in-kind support is less important to mothers than informal cash support but very much worth considering in future quantitative research.Single father just looking for my Oakland Maryland
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