Multiple-Father Families, Child Support Enforcement, and Welfare

Eirik Evenhouse, Mills College
Siobhan Reilly, Mills College

We explore the connection between multiple-partner fertility, child support enforcement, and welfare benefits. Unlike past studies of public policy and family structure, which focus on a mother’s marital status or the absence of a male partner, we examine the biological relationships among the children in the household. We examine the pre-TANF era, using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) for 1985 through 1996. The information in SIPP’s rarely used household relationship matrix lets us ascertain the biological relationships between a woman and every child in her household, together with the precise relationships among those children. This enables us to determine the number of men who are biological fathers of a mother’s resident children. We find no evidence of a relationship between child support enforcement and multiple-father fertility, and only weak evidence that higher benefits encourage multiple-father fertility.

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Presented in Session 102: Public Policy and Family Forms