This study examines complicated family structures that result from mothers and fathers having children with multiple partners. Multi-partner fertility is increasingly common, and has important implications for the well-being of vulnerable families, as well as for the design and administration of social policies. This research considers the relationship between family complexity and nonresident fathers' economic contributions, measured by informal cash or in-kind support to their children living with low-income mothers. The complexity in family environments may alter nonresident fathers' motivations and incentives to provide economic contributions to their children. This study examines the decision making of nonresident fathers regarding how to allocate their economic resources across multiple households.
This study uses the Survey of Wisconsin Works Families, the survey data of the Child Support Demonstration Evaluation (CSDE) project in Wisconsin. The survey sample is drawn from participants in the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program, the TANF program in Wisconsin. This study also utilizes two administrative datasets: a) Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance (UI) system for collecting information on earnings of fathers; b) the Kids Information Data System (KIDS), the State's information system to administer child support.
This study conducts OLS and Tobit regression analysis to estimate the amount of informal support provided by the father of the focal child to the mother of the focal child, using both the survey of mothers (n=1,878) and the survey of fathers (n=415).
Mothers repartnered with another man receive less informal support from the focal father than do mothers who remain single. Fathers repartnered with another woman provide less informal support to the focal mother than do single fathers. Mothers with multi-partner fertility receive less informal support from the focal father than do mothers with single partner fertility. In contrast, fathers having children with two partners provide more informal support to the focal mother than fathers having children with only the focal mother.
Regarding the composition of children in mothers' or fathers' households, mothers having multiple children with the focal father receive more informal support than do mothers having the focal child only. Fathers having other children living outside of their households provide less informal support to the focal mother.
Related to the association between formal child support and informal support, mothers with either a formal child support order or an informal agreement on supporting children receive more informal support than mothers without such child support arrangements.
This study finds that the provision of informal support is associated with not only demographic and economic characteristics of mothers and fathers, but also household and family structures, and child support arrangements. In addition, the benefits of formal child support programs (e.g. increase in contact with children) are spread to the area of informal support provision. Strict enforcement of child support programs may increase informal support, resulting in improving the financial well-being of low-income mothers and their children. This study contributes to extending the research on nonresident fathers' economic contributions by taking into account complicated family environments in which nonresident fathers and custodial mothers are embedded.