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The roles of child support enforcement and welfare in non-marital childbearing

Abstract.

This paper examines the effects of stronger child support enforcement and declines in welfare benefits on changes in non-marital childbearing between 1980 and 1996. Economic theory suggests that stricter child support enforcement will increase the costs of children for unwed fathers, making them less likely to have a child outside marriage. Reductions in welfare benefits also are expected to increase the costs of non-marital childbearing for both mothers and fathers. We examine these hypotheses, using aggregate state-level data and fixed effects regression models to identify the effects of policies on non-marital birth rates. We find that both stricter child support enforcement and declines in welfare benefits deter non-marital births. However, the estimated effects of child support enforcement are more robust and larger than those of welfare. The estimates imply that in the 1980–1996 period, increases in child support enforcement led to a decline in non-marital birth rates in the range of 6% to 9%, whereas decreases in welfare benefits led to a decline in the range of 2% to 4%.

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Received: 28 June 2000/Accepted: 17 September 2001

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Garfinkel, I., Huang, CC., McLanahan, S. et al. The roles of child support enforcement and welfare in non-marital childbearing. J Popul Econ 16, 55–70 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s001480100108

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s001480100108

  • JEL classification: H
  • I
  • J
  • Key words: Child support enforcement
  • nonmarital births