Impact Study of Citizenship Status on Formal & Informal Child Support Transfers

Child Support and Mixed-Status Families an Analysis using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study
November 2016
Xu, L., Pirog, M. A. & Vargas, E. D.
Social Science Research
IMPAQ Health
Xu, L., Pirog, M. A. & Vargas, E. D. (2016). Child support and mixed-status families an analysis using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Social Science Research, 60, 249-265.

While much research exists on the importance of child support for children's wellbeing, there is little focus on child support within mixed-status families, a large and rapidly growing population in the United States. To alleviate this research gap, Lanlan Xu co-wrote a paper investigating the impact of citizenship status on formal and informal child support transfers. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this study used a nationally representative sample of parents who have citizen children.

Researchers found that while mixed-status families are much less likely to have child support orders than citizen families, mixed-status families that do have formal orders receive child support at a slightly higher rate than citizen families. These results suggest that lacking a formal order is a primary barrier to receiving child support for mixed-status families.

This study also found that mothers' knowledge of the child support system increases the probability of establishing paternity. This knowledge, however does not significantly affect the likelihood the family will have a child support order, child support receipt, or in-kind support. Rather, formal child support outcomes are influenced by institutional factors, such as state-level child support enforcement.

These findings have important policy implications for policy makers and researchers interested in reducing child poverty. This research underscores the need to revisit child support policies, particularly in cases of complex family structures, such as mixed-status families.