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Unchanging child support orders in the face of unstable earnings

  • Yoonsook Ha

    (Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina)

  • Maria Cancian

    (Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  • Daniel R. Meyer

    (Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Registered author(s):

    The underlying theory behind child support guidelines implies that child support orders should change when the incomes of noncustodial parents change. This paper documents changes in noncustodial fathers' earnings over a five-year period and examines the relationship between the changes in earnings and modifications in child support orders. Using detailed longitudinal administrative data from Wisconsin, the authors examine the history of orders and earnings for fathers in couples who had their first child support ordered in 2000. A substantial proportion of fathers experience large changes in earnings, but relatively few of the associated child support orders are modified. Using discrete-time multinomial event history models that consider time-varying variables and control for censored observations, we find some evidence of changes in earnings being associated with changes in orders, all else equal, but the relationship is relatively weak and order changes are not proportional to earnings changes. The findings highlight the challenges and importance of developing policies that result in child support orders being more responsive to changes in fathers' incomes. © 2010 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20534
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    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 799-820

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:29:y:2010:i:4:p:799-820
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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    1. Thomas Hanson & Irwin Garfinkel & Sara Mclanahan & Cynthia Miller, 1996. "Trends in child support outcomes," Demography, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 483-496, November.
    2. Rich, Lauren M., 2001. "Regular and irregular earnings of unwed fathers: Implications for child support practices," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 353-376.
    3. Lenna Nepomnyaschy, 2007. "Child support and father-child contact: Testing reciprocal pathways," Demography, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 93-112, February.
    4. Elizabeth Phillips & Irwin Garfinkel, 1993. "Income growth among nonresident fathers: evidence from Wisconsin," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 227-241, May.
    5. Richard B. Freeman & Jane Waldfogel, 2001. "Dunning Delinquent Dads: The Effects of Child Support Enforcement Policy on Child Support Receipt by Never Married Women," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 207-225.
    6. Elaine Sorensen & Ariel Hill, 2004. "Single Mothers and Their Child-Support Receipt: How Well Is Child-Support Enforcement Doing?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    7. David Betson & Eirik Evenhouse & Siobhan Reilly & Eugene Smolensky, 1992. "Trade-offs implicit in child-support guidelines," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(1), pages 1-20.
    8. Maureen R Waller & Robert Plotnick, 2001. "Effective child support policy for low-income families: evidence from street level research," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(1), pages 89-110.
    9. Fredrik Andersson & Harry J. Holzer & Julia I. Lane, 2003. "Worker Advancement in the Low-Wage Labor Market: The Importance of Good Jobs," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2003-08, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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