Full-Time Father or “Deadbeat Dad”? Does the Growth in Father Custody Explain the Declining Share of Single Parents with a Child Support Order?

Maria Cancian, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Daniel Meyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Eunhee Han, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The share of single parent families with a child support order has declined significantly in recent years. We use a unique set of court record data to assess the extent to which this trend is due to: (1) the growth in nonmarital fertility, (2) changes in family living situations (especially the increase in children residing with their fathers rather than their mothers), (3) changes in income (especially the growth in mothers with earnings equal to or greater than fathers’), (4) changes in other characteristics of the parents, or (5) changes in the probability of an order net of these factors. Our analysis suggests that, especially for single parent families that result from divorce, changes in living situations explain the bulk of the decline in child support orders. That is, we find more evidence of a growth in full-time fathers (at least part of the week) than “deadbeat dads.”

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Presented in Session 114: Public Policy and Families