Child Support and Child Development

Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Rutgers University
Katherine Magnuson, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Lawrence M. Berger, University of Wisconsin at Madison

We use the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to explore the association between nonresident fathers’ economic support of their children and child development. Prior research suggests that income from child support may confer greater benefits for children than income from other sources; however, these studies were based mostly on children in previously married families and focused on formal child support receipt. Research on low-income parents (particularly unmarried parents) suggests that while few fathers pay formal child support, the overwhelming majority contribute informally or in-kind to their children. In this paper, we examine associations of multiple types of nonresident father contributions—formal support, informal cash support, and in-kind support—with children’s behavior problems and cognitive skills at five years of age among a sample of unmarried parents in large US cities. We include a rich set of controls, lagged dependent variables, and instrumental variables to address potential endogeneity.

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Presented in Session 180: Fathers and Their Children