Session: Understanding Nonresident Fathers' Ability to Pay Child Support (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

28 Understanding Nonresident Fathers' Ability to Pay Child Support

Thursday, January 16, 2020: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy (IP&SWP)
Symposium Organizer:
Daniel Miller, PhD, Boston University
Jennifer Bellamy, PhD, University of Denver
A substantial number of custodial mothers receive limited or no support from non-custodial fathers. In 2015, only 71.2% of custodial mothers due child support received any, and less than half (44.9%) received the full amount of support due to them (Grall, 2018). In 2017, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (2018) estimated that the amount of past-due support had increased to over $117 billion, much of it owed by fathers with little-to-no ability to pay (Sorensen, Sousa, Schaner, 2009). In light of these facts, there is great interest among policymakers in the factors that are associated with fathers' ability to pay child support or otherwise contribute to their children.

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.

* noted as presenting author
Testing a New Approach to Serving Noncustodial Parents Who Are behind in Their Child Support Payments
Maria Cancian, PhD, Georgetown University; Daniel Meyer, PhD, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Robert Wood, PhD, Mathematica Policy Research
How Much Child Support Should We Expect from Low-Income Fathers?
Lisa Vogel, MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Leslie Hodges, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Minimum Wage and Fathers' Provision of Child Support. Findings from National Data
Daniel Miller, PhD, Boston University; Margaret M.C. Thomas, MSW, Boston University; Allison Dwyer Emory, PhD, Rutgers University; Lenna Nepomnyaschy, PhD, Rutgers University; Maureen Waller, PhD, Cornell University
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