Child Support Enforcement and the Incidence of Single Motherhood

Patricia Tong, University of California, San Diego

This paper examines how child support enforcement (CSE) reform created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 affects the incidence of single motherhood in the United States. Results demonstrate that the effect of CSE reform differs for women by educational attainment. CSE reform causes a 17.6 and 12 percent increase in the probability of being a single mother for women with less than a high school degree and female high school graduates, respectively. Rises in single motherhood come from an increase in non-marital births by women with less than a high school degree and increases in both non-marital births and marital dissolutions among female high school graduates. These results suggest that CSE has an impact on who decides to have children and the circumstances in which certain children are raised.

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Presented in Session 67: Policy and Family