The Effect of Child Support on Subsequent Marriage and Cohabitation

Maria Cancian, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Daniel Meyer, University of Wisconsin at Madison

We use data from an experiment that resulted in randomly assigned difference in child support receipt to investigate the effects of child support on cohabitation and marriage. Our results suggest that increases in child support received (associated with a policy of full pass-through and disregard of child support) are associated with significantly lower rates of cohabitation between mothers and men who are not the fathers of their child(ren). Thus a higher proportion of women remain single, given that rates of marriage and of cohabitation with fathers are similar. Overall, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that increased child support increases women’s economic independence, reducing the incentive for women to cohabit with men who are not related to their children.

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Presented in Session 90: Marriage and Public Policy