Accordingly, each of the four papers in this panel describes a novel attempt to understand fathers' ability to pay child support. Collectively, they represent contributions by scholars at different career stages and from a variety of academic disciplines (social work, public policy, public affairs, sociology) as well as the use of a diverse series of research approaches (advanced quantitative methods, mixed methods, experimental design).
The first paper reports the findings from a large, recent demonstration project whose key aim was to increase reliable provision of child support. The demonstration randomly assigned non-custodial parents with difficulty meeting their child support orders to receive either typical support or expanded services including case management, employment, and parenting services. The second paper investigates the impacts of a recent change to federal policy that requires states to consider noncustodial parents' ability to pay when computing the amount of a child support order. It uses a mixed-methods approach, based on qualitative analyses of state reports, interviews with child support staff, and quantitative analyses to assess how variation in states' interpretations of guidelines affect the size of child support orders.
The final two papers both consider whether social policies not explicitly focused on child support can be used to promote fathers' financial contributions to their children. The first uses nationally representative data to estimate whether within- and across-state variation in the level of the minimum wage is associated with fathers' financial contributions to their children. The second uses longitudinal panel data to estimate whether variability in the presence, generosity, and refundability of state Earned Income Tax Credits are associated with low-income nonresident fathers' material support. The panel includes a discussant whose expertise focuses on fathers and their engagement in child and family services. The discussant will help summarize the contributions of the papers and reflect on their implications for social welfare policy and social work practice.