Child Support Policies and Information about Fathers on Birth Certificates

Elizabeth Peters, Cornell University
Kara Joyner, Bowling Green State University
Asia Sikora, Cornell University

Although birth certificates are often missing information on fathers of children born to unmarried women, the percent of birth certificates with missing father information has declined considerably in recent decades. We examine the extent to which the reduction in missing information is due changes in child support and paternity establishment policies. Exploiting state-level variation in child support and paternity establishment policies between 1985 and 2003, this study examines the influence of these policies on the provision of father’s information on birth certificates for nonmarital births. Using data from the Vital Statistics and Child Support Enforcement Agency Annual Report, our results indicate that increased paternity establishment and child support enforcement reduce the likelihood of missing father’s information, but that these factors have weaker influences for lower education mothers. We discuss the implications of our findings for the imputation practices of researchers and for contemporary perspectives on father involvement.

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Presented in Poster Session 6