Methods: Our first objective is to examine persistence of and transitions into and out of poverty among custodial-mother families across three survey rounds over a 6-7-year period. Second, we use logistic regression with longitudinal data to determine if child support receipt is a protective factor against future poverty, controlling for the additional mechanisms that the custodial mother may be using for economic support: custodial-mother employment, extended family support, and government transfers. We use data from 3540 custodial mothers from the Chilean Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey (ELPI) and 730 custodial mothers from the Colombian Longitudinal Survey (ELCA) who are observed in multiple survey rounds. We consider both absolute and relative measures of poverty.
Results: Our initial findings from Chile indicate that 64% of custodial mothers were poor at some point, 38% experienced multiple periods of poverty, and 13% were in poverty all three survey rounds. Of all custodial mothers, 32% experienced a transition into poverty while 31% experienced a transition out of poverty. Results from our logistic models suggest that child support would be a helpful policy tool to prevent future poverty among custodial-mother families. Those receiving child support were 5-8 percentage points less likely to experience future poverty, net of other strategies that the custodial mother may use to avoid economic hardship altogether.
Conclusions and Policy Implications. Over one fourth of Chilean custodial mothers never receive child support and around 40% do not receive it at a given point in time; around half of custodial mothers in Colombia do not receive child support. Increasing receipt rates would be a necessary step to capitalize the long-term benefits of child support transfers in the economic well-being of these mothers and their children.