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Stricter Child Support Laws 20% Fewer Out of Wedlock Births

Posted by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 5:05 PM
  • 88 Replies

Stricter Child Support Laws 20% Fewer Out of Wedlock Births

The study found that states employing strict enforcement of child support have up to 20 percent fewer unmarried births than states that are lax about getting unmarried fathers to pay. The study authors theorized that forcing unmarried fathers to support their children financially might deter them from letting a pregnancy occur, or else motivate them to marry the mother if it did. Please note that this advantage of child support is not replicated by direct government financial assistance.


Since children of single parents run a higher risk of poverty and other social ills, policymakers have sought to stem the tide of unmarried births, only to see the rate rise from well under 10 percent of births in the 1960s to roughly a third of all U.S. births today.


Tough child support laws may deter single men from becoming fathers, study finds

Steven Goldsmith    sgolds@u.washington.edu   

Child Support Study


Researchers studying the factors behind out-of-wedlock births have found a significant variable that often is overlooked: child support.

States that are strict in enforcing child support have up to 20 percent fewer unmarried births than states that are lax about getting unmarried dads to pay, the researchers found.

"The better the enforcement of child support, the more the cost of childbearing shifts from unmarried women to their partners," said lead author Robert Plotnick, a professor at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs. "This may make men more reluctant to become unwed fathers."

To document the link, Plotnick and three other social scientists teamed up to compare the toughness of each state's child support enforcement to the chances that women living in that state had out-of-wedlock births. Using a national sample of 5,195 women of childbearing age, they found a significant correlation between tougher enforcement and less chance of having unmarried births.

Since children of single parents run a higher risk of poverty and other social ills, policymakers have sought to stem the tide of unmarried births, only to see the rate rise from well under 10 percent of births in the 1960s to roughly a third of all U.S. births today.

Study co-author Irwin Garfinkel of Columbia University said most programs to discourage single parenthood -- such as restrictions on welfare benefits -- focus on the mothers.

"Decisions about sexual intercourse and marriage involve two people," Garfinkel said. "But research and policy debates have largely failed to recognize men's role in childbearing and how government policies may influence their behavior."

Plotnick, Garfinkel, and co-authors Sara McLanahan of Princeton University and Inhoe Ku of Seoul National University in South Korea theorized that forcing unmarried fathers to support their children financially might deter them from letting a pregnancy occur, or else motivate them to marry the mother if it did.

To test the theory, the researchers analyzed how well states do at identifying their unmarried dads and getting them to pay. Eight categories of child-support laws were tracked, covering everything from paternity testing to wage withholding. The researchers also measured the amount each state spent on child-support enforcement, divided by the number of single mothers. And to gauge the effectiveness of these measures, they calculated how the amount of child support collected compared to the amount that was owed.

The state-by-state measures of enforcement then got matched to national data on families from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics during 1980-93, the most recent period available.

The correlation between strictness of enforcement and rate of unmarried births was significant. Indeed, the results suggest that if every state had on its books at least six (out of a possible eight) child-support laws during the period, this would have cut the national rate of nonmarital childbearing by 17 percent.

Moreover, according to the results, if all 50 states had done at least as well in their enforcement efforts as the state ranked fifth from the top, that would have led to a 20 percent reduction in out-of-wedlock births.

"Any program that reduced out-of-wedlock childbearing by 17 to 20 percent," said Plotnick, "would be viewed as a major success."

While many states have continued to tighten up child support policies since the study's data were collected, even as recently as 2002 only one state (New Jersey) collected on at least 80 percent of its child support orders, according to Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty. Five states collected on fewer than four out of 10 such orders.

The main purposes of child support enforcement, of course, are to improve children's wellbeing and cut public welfare costs, but the researchers concluded that a reduction in unmarried births was an overlooked side benefit.

"Social policies sometimes have unintended bad side effects," Plotnick said, "so it's nice to see one that has positive impacts."

The paper is titled "The Impact of Child Support Enforcement Policy on Nonmarital Childbearing." The research was supported by the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington and a grant from the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

###

For more information, contact: Plotnick (206) 685-2055 or plotnick@u.washington.edu, or Garfinkel (212) 854-8489 or ig3@columbia.edu.



http://www.uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=10608

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by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 5:05 PM
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Replies (1-10):
anetrnlov
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 5:20 PM


Quote:

or else motivate them to marry the mother if it did.

I sincerely hope not.  Pregnancy is NOT the reason two people should get married.  That just leads to a whole different set of issues.


lvnmylif
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 5:28 PM

That is pretty interesting.  It would make sense that the more men are forced to take responsibility for their unplanned children the more responsibility they are going to take in birth control.  I like studies like this.  The cause and effect of things is interesting.  It kind of reminds me of Freakonomics and super freakonomics.  Those were two very interesting books.  If you haven't you should read them.

Sirenabella
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 6:02 PM

It's good to see somebody looking at the male side of things instead of laying the blame solely on the women. IMO ppl shouldn't get married just b/c a pregnancy occurs though. That only causes a different set of issues.  

gludwig2000
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 6:17 PM

They need to make it harder for men to father children and run out on them, married or not. I know many women who have not received one cent of child support for their children, and yet the donor went on to father more.  

futureshock
by Emerald Member on Jan. 25, 2010 at 8:54 PM


Quoting gludwig2000:

They need to make it harder for men to father children and run out on them, married or not. I know many women who have not received one cent of child support for their children, and yet the donor went on to father more.  

Men like that make me ill.

SEEKEROFSHELLS
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:04 PM

 Great study and interesting results. If their wages are garnished, and they see it with every paycheck, when they cat around they would be more likely to use protection or get a vasectomy so they won't see MORE out of their check. Birth control is a two way street as well but woman bear the children, and ultimately pay the price if the guy is a deadbeat.

futureshock
by Emerald Member on Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:09 PM


Quoting Sirenabella:

It's good to see somebody looking at the male side of things instead of laying the blame solely on the women. IMO ppl shouldn't get married just b/c a pregnancy occurs though. That only causes a different set of issues.  

I don't think the couple should have the baby or keep it unless they get married, because fatherless children have a rougher time of it IN GENERAL.  Every child deserves to be born into an intact family.

im23vaughn
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:23 PM

clappingI can see how this works. I have 3 male friends. 1 pays 400/month for 2 kids. Another pays 340/ month for 1 kid and the last pays 700/month for 1 kid. None of them have had any more children ( non are married) since they have had to pay child support. Their incomes range from 20,000/ year to 80,000/year. So it sweeps across income spectrums. If more males knew that they couldn't have sex and just expect walk away, they would start to be more responsible. The governement would save money and maybe use those funds for more important things. Think if there are 20,000 woman on PA and they each begin receiving 200/month in benefits PA would reduce their PA by 200. That is roughly 4 million a month saved and 48 million a year saved. That is money for roads, drug abuse treatment centers, schools, and etc.

caiti
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:28 PM

Exactly! It's not so much that people should be "married" to have children, it's just that there needs to be more influence on BOTh parents to support their child. It's takes two, and there shouldn't be as many single moms are there are in this country, simply because the children's fathers don't want to take responsibility.

Quoting im23vaughn:

clappingI can see how this works. I have 3 male friends. 1 pays 400/month for 2 kids. Another pays 340/ month for 1 kid and the last pays 700/month for 1 kid. None of them have had any more children ( non are married) since they have had to pay child support. Their incomes range from 20,000/ year to 80,000/year. So it sweeps across income spectrums. If more males knew that they couldn't have sex and just expect walk away, they would start to be more responsible. The governement would save money and maybe use those funds for more important things. Think if there are 20,000 woman on PA and they each begin receiving 200/month in benefits PA would reduce their PA by 200. That is roughly 4 million a month saved and 48 million a year saved. That is money for roads, drug abuse treatment centers, schools, and etc.


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Liyoness
by on Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:28 PM


Quoting futureshock:

 

Quoting Sirenabella:

It's good to see somebody looking at the male side of things instead of laying the blame solely on the women. IMO ppl shouldn't get married just b/c a pregnancy occurs though. That only causes a different set of issues.  

I don't think the couple should have the baby or keep it unless they get married, because fatherless children have a rougher time of it IN GENERAL.  Every child deserves to be born into an intact family.

Wow... Many days you make great points and contribute intelligence to debates but this comment made me physically ill. That's really, really disgusting.

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