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Child Support, Welfare Dependency, and Women's Labor Supply

By Wei-Yin Hu


This study evaluates the potential effectiveness of alternative child support policies in reducing welfare program participation. Employing longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the analysis addresses the simultaneity of women's decisions regarding welfare participation, labor force participation, and annual hours of work following marital breakup. The estimation framework accounts for the endogeneity of child support payments with female labor supply and for the selection bias due to differential rates of remarriage among divorced/separated women. Results show that higher child support payments would (i) decrease welfare participation and (ii) increase average hours of work. The empirical estimates are used to assess the potential effects of adopting alternative child support policies such as the Wisconsin child support assurance system. These results suggest that large potential welfare cost savings are attainable but significant reductions in welfare participation rates would only be achieved through substantial improvements in child support enforcement or through government-assured child support payments.

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