Child Support and Minority Fathers in Fragile Families

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Child support reforms in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) have substantially improved child support outcomes for children born to unmarried parents, thereby decreasing minority status gaps. However, in the years following PRWORA, racial inequalities in employment and earnings among less-educated men increased, possibly contributing to larger minority status gaps in child support outcomes. We examine minority status differentials in child support outcomes for children of unmarried parents born two years after the passage of PRWORA. We include a rich set of controls that have been previously unavailable in order to reduce omitted variable bias that has been present in much prior research in this area. We find no statistically significant difference between the award probabilities of black and white unmarried parents. However, among those with awards, blacks are far less likely to comply (make payments) than are whites. Introduction of control variables explains 22% of the white-black difference in the probability of compliance, but this difference remains substantial and significant. We find lower award probabilities among Hispanic fathers, but no white-Hispanic difference in compliance rates. When controls are added, we explain half of the white-Hispanic difference in award rates and this difference becomes statistically insignificant.
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