Abstract: Effects of the Korean Child Support Reform: Evidence from a Recent Survey of Single Parents (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Effects of the Korean Child Support Reform: Evidence from a Recent Survey of Single Parents

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Independence BR F, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Yeongmin Kim, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI
Yiyoon Chung, PhD, Associate Professor, Konkuk University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Lisa Vogel, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Background and Purpose: As the number of children living with single parents increases and their economic hardship draws attention from the public, South Korea joined Western developed countries in the late 2000s to develop a formal child support system. Acts implemented in June 2007 and August 2009 require and formalize child support agreements between divorcing couples. While it was one of the most significant family policy reforms in recent Korean history, there is little empirical evidence on the effects of the new policy. An earlier study by Kim and Chung (2020) attempted to analyze the policy effects on increasing child support receipt, but the data and methods used in the study were limited. This study utilizes more recent data and a stronger analytic strategy to examine the effects of the recent Korean reform on child support receipt among divorced single mothers.

Methods: We use data from the Korean Survey of Single Parents (KSSP) of 2018 and 2012. KSSP includes rich cross-sectional data from a nationally representative sample of Korean single parents. We employ an identification strategy to compare the child support received by single mothers divorced before and after the child support policy changes. The earlier analysis by Kim and Chung used a single cross-sectional survey, which is limited in assessing policy impacts because those divorced more recently may be different from those divorced earlier in unobserved ways. To address this problem, we utilize two sets of cross-sectional data and compare child support receipt between two groups who are similar in terms of time since divorce. We first select mothers divorced September 2009 -- April 2014 from the 2018 KSSP data, who were subject to the new child support policy (the post-reform group). We then use the 2012 KSSP data to select mothers divorced November 2003 -- June 2008, who were not subject to the new policy (the pre-reform group). This way, we can compare the child support receipt at the time of the survey between two groups of mothers divorced about a similar time ago but under different child support policies. We employ standard logistic regression models to examine whether the probability of child support receipt is different between the two groups of mothers.

Results: For the post-reform group, child support receipt was 29% at the time of survey. In contrast, the receipt rate for the pre-reform group was only about 16% at the time of survey. The difference was statistically significant, even after controlling for the socioeconomic characteristics (odds ratio = 4.5).

Conclusions and Implications: While an earlier study by Kim and Chung (2020) did not find strong evidence on the effects of the recent Korean child support policy reform, the findings of the current study suggest that the policy changes have produced positive effects on child support receipt among divorced single mothers. Given that the recent child support receipt rate among all custodial mothers is a little over 30% in the United States (Grall, 2020), the observed policy effects in Korea seem to be promising.