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Interrelation of child support, visitation, and hours of work.

Young mothers who receive child support payments are more likely to work than nonrecipients and are apt to work longer hours and have higher earnings if their children are visited by the father; young fathers who pay support are more likely than nonpayers to visit their children

The composition of families has changed significantly over the past 15 to 20 years. Particularly, the percentage of families that were headed by women grew from 21.1 percent to 31.1 percent from 1970 to 1988. The growth in the number of such families is occurring for two reasons. First, there has been a large increase in marital separation and divorce. The percentage of divorced women aged 18 or older increased from 4.3 percent in 1970 to 13.9 percent in 1988. Second, there has been a sharp rise in the number of unwed mothers, as the frequency of births to unwed mothers increased from 26.4 percent in 1970 to 38.6 percent in 1988.[1]

Consequently, financial support, and the lack of it, for children who live apart from their fathers is of increasing concern. In 1987, only 3.7 million of the 9.4 million women with own children under age 21 whose father was absent received child support. In addition, about one-third of these women had incomes below the poverty level, and data show that many families in poverty receive welfare payments.2 Hence, a contributing factor to the incidence of poverty and welfare dependency of custodial parents is inadequate fmancial support received from the absent parent.

The economic situation of women with children, combined with the lack of support payments by absent fathers has led to Federal legislation aimed at collecting money from these fathers. The Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984 requires each State to establish guidelines for determining child support awards, and the Family Welfare Reform Act of 1988 requires States to provide by 1994 wage withholding for all new orders for child support awards.

Child support reform is expected to affect a number of issues involving parents, such as visitation rights of noncustodial parents, custody, welfare dependence, labor force participation, divorce, remarriage, and the decision to have a child? This article examines the interrelationship between child support payments to custodial mothers, visitation of noncustodial fathers, and annual hours of work of the parents. These three activities are interdependent and also affect the economic well-being of parents and their children. Data are from the 1988 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (Youth Survey), an ongoing longitudinal survey sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.4 The Youth Survey provides annual information on a sample of young women and men who were 14 to 22 years old in 1979. In 1988, the sample, which includes an overrepresentation of blacks, Hispanics, and economically disadvantaged whites, had 10,466 respondents. In all computations, weights are used to adjust for different sampling rates and nonresponse rates, so that the data are nationally representative of the age group.

Background and issues

A 1982 study by Allyson Sherman Grossman and Howard Hayghe indicates that the receipt of child support payments is positively related to labor force participation.5 This finding seems somewhat surprising because one might assume that income transfers would reduce the hours of work of mothers. However, receipt of child support is complicated by the fact that if the individual also receives welfare benefits, welfare payments are reduced by nearly the entire amount of the child support payment, meaning that a mother who receives welfare may not be any better off financially after receiving child support payments.6 Yet, if child support payments could entirely replace welfare benefits, the incentives to work would increase, because welfare benefits contain a large marginal tax on earnings, while child support payments do not. However, for mothers not on welfare, an increase in child support payments will increase nonlabor income, which generally reduces hours of work.

A 1989 study by John Graham and Andrea Beller indicates that, after controlling for' the complications induced by the welfare system, child support payments reduce hours of work, but by a much smaller magnitude than other forms of nonlabor income.7 Graham and Beller speculate that child support may be different from other nonlabor income for two reasons. First, women who receive child support payments may use this income to purchase commodities that can substitute for time at home, such as child care services, thus allowing them to increase their hours of work. Second, because many fathers only partially comply with child support awards or do not comply at all, mothers may view child support as a risky income source, and consequently regard it as not having the same negative effect on their hours of work as other more guaranteed forms of nonlabor income.

The hours of work and earnings of absent fathers are also affected by changes in the way child support is awarded and collected. When an award is set by the court, the size of the payment is often based at least partially on the father's earnings. In cases that involve wage garnishment, the payment is collected through payroll withholding in the same manner as Social Security and income taxes. Consequently, an absent parent' s labor force activity is interrelated with child support payments.

Another issue associated with changes in the child support system is that of visitation by the absent parent. Research to date indicates child support payments are positively related to frequency of visitation.8 This result is sometimes interpreted as a consequence of parents with greater resources being more willing to spend time with their children. However, this interpretation ignores the possibility that fathers with higher earnings may find it more expensive (according to the market value of their time) to spend time with their children than do fathers with lower earnings.

Overall, previous studies indicate a relationship between payment of child support and hours of work, as well as between child support and visitation. This article extends the analyses to examine the joint interdependence among payment of child support, visitation, and hours of work. In contrast with most previous research, the data in this study are based on responses from both custodial mothers and absent fathers. Because of the lack of data on absent parents, most studies on child support payments analyze information obtained solely from mothers with custody of their children. Such information might understate the amount of child support and extent of visitation because mothers could be unaware of direct transfers by the absent father to the children and of all the time the absent father spent with the children. However, absent fathers could overstate the amount of payments and extent of visitation by not complying or partially complying with child support award amounts, and they could be hesitant to admit they do not visit their children. While the Youth Survey does not allow the questioning of both parents of a child, the data do allow comparison of results from two separate samples; a sample of mothers with custody of their children and a sample of absent fathers.

Custodial mothers, absent fathers

The following tabulation shows the receipt/payment of child support and visits by absent fathers as reported by custodial mothers and absent fathers (numbers in thousands):
 Mothers Absent
 with custody fathers
Total ................. 3,167 1,923
Received child support
payments:
Number ............. 1,087 ....
Percent .............. 34.3 ....
Paid child support:
Number ................. 940
Percent .................. 48.9
Child visited by father:
Number ............. 2,033 1,396
Percent .............. 64.2 72.6


Approximately one-third of the mothers claim to receive support payments, and about two-thirds of them report their children received at least one visit by an absent father over the course of a year. In contrast, nearly half of the fathers report they provide support to children living elsewhere and nearly three-quarters of them say they visit their children. The data also reveal that there are more mothers with custody of their children than there are absent fathers. Part of this discrepancy is attributable to the fact that the sample includes individuals who were between ages 23 and 31 in 1988, and because mothers are, on average, younger than fathers, we might expect more mothers than fathers in this sample.9

Yet, the number of fathers who report paying child support is similar to the number of mothers who report receiving child support; both close to 1 million. Consequently, the discrepancy in the total number of men reporting to have children who do not live with them and the number of women with children whose father is absent might occur because fathers who do not pay child support are less likely to reveal the existence of children not living in the household. This conclusion is consistent with a 1983 study by Andrew Cherlin, Jeanne Griffith, and James McCarthy which uses data from the Current Population Survey.[10]

However, the number of mothers reporting that theft children were visited by the father is substantially higher than the number of men reporting visitation. This information indicates that, while a large number of fathers do not pay child support, a much greater number do visit theft children. This also suggests that men who admit to being an absent father are more likely to pay support and visit than are other fathers.

Interrelationships

To examine the relationship between child support payments, visitation, and hours of work, we define four mutually exclusive categories for each parent:

* child support is received or paid, but there is

no visitation;

* visitation occurs, but no child support is

received or paid;

* child support is received or paid and visitation

occurs; and

* child support is not received or paid and

visitation does not occur.

Child support payments and visitation are measurable characteristics of parents, as are marital status, education, race, and father's distance from the child. Together, these variables produce a number of measurable differences among parents by demographic characteristics.

The mothers. Table 1 compares selected characteristics for mothers with custody of the children by receipt of child support payments and the absent father's visitation status. It appears that receiving child support without visitation is relatively rare, occurring in only 5.2 percent of approximately 3.2 million cases.

The data also indicate there is considerable variation by demographic characteristics.[11] For instance, women who are currently divorced are most likely to receive both child support and visitation, probably because child support awards and visitation arrangements often are established as part of divorce settlements. In contrast, a large proportion (39.7 percent) of the mothers who do not receive child support or visitation are currently marned. This result might suggest that marriage or remarriage by the mother reduces the ties between the child and the child's father.[12] A large percentage (37.6 percent) of mothers reporting visitation only have never been married.

In addition, mothers whose children receive visitation only are more likely to have dropped out of high school than are other mothers. Mothers who receive child support only or receive both child support and visitation have a higher percentage among whites than among other races. [13]

The relationship between distance of the father from the child and child support and visitation is surprising. [14] Mothers with children who are not visited by the father (they receive child support only or receive neither child support nor visitation) are more likely to live more than 100 miles from the father, as might be expected. Yet, a large percentage of mothers with no visitation live within 1 mile of the father. Visitation most commonly occurs when the parents live between 1 and 100 miles from each other.

The fathers. Table 2 presents data reported by absent fathers on payment of child support and visitation status. Fathers report payment of child support and visits with their children proportionately more than do mothers (42.4 percent versus 29.1 percent). Yet, patterns by demographic characteristics of fathers are fairly similar to that of mothers. As with mothers, fathers who pay child support and visit their children are more likely to be divorced, while fathers who visit only are more likely to have never married. Also, more than one-third (35.1 percent) of fathers who do not pay child support or visit their children are currently married, suggesting that mareage or remarriage reduces the ties between the father and a child outside the household.

In addition, there is a higher percentage of high school dropouts and black fathers who visit their children, but do not pay child support, compared with other fathers. Yet, fathers who report that they neither pay child support nor visit theft children have a higher percentage among whites than among other races.

The relationship between distance from the child and child support payments and visitation status of fathers is remarkably similar to that for mothers. Fathers who visit their children (visit only or pay child support and visit) are more likely to live between 1 and 100 miles from the child, whereas fathers who do not visit tend to live either within 1 mile from the child or more than 100 miles away. These findings suggest that the relationship between child support, visitation, and distance between parents needs further examination.

Hours of work and earnings

Child support payments have potential effects on the labor force participation decisions of both mothers with custody and absent fathers. The data reveal that receipt and payment of child support as well as visits by the absent father are positively related to having worked in the previous year. The following tabulation shows the work experience of mothers and fathers, by child support and visitation status:
 (In thousands)
 Worked in Percent
 Total previous of total
 year
Mothers:
Nonrecipients.. 2,080 1,445 69.5
Recipients .... 1,087 842 77.5
No visits ...... 1,134 78 69.3
Received visits. 2,033 1,499 73.7
Fathers:
Nonpayers .... 983 797 81.1
Payers ....... 940 861 91.6
Did not visit... 527 421 79.9
Visited ....... 1,396 1,237 88.6


The positive association between working and receiving child support payments for mothers is similar to that found by Grossman and Hayghe.[15] The results on the relation between child support and work for both parents suggest that factors that influence decisions concerning child support and visitation are similar to those that influence labor force participation decisions.

Women who receive child support payments (support only or both support and visitation) are more likely to work than those who do not. (See table 3.) Among working mothers, those who receive visitation only are the most likely to work fewer than 500 hours a year, whereas mothers who receive child support payments only are the least likely to work 2,000 hours or more a year. Also, while mothers who receive child support only are more likely to have annual earnings of less than $10,000 (in 1988 dollars), those who receive both support and visitation are the most likely to have annual earnings of more than $30,000.

There are two noteworthy implications from these results. First, child support recipients are more likely to work than are nonrecipients, which is consistent with previous studies. Second, among recipients, mothers of children who are visited by the absent father tend to work more hours and have higher earnings than do mothers of children not visited. The results suggest that there may be inherent differences among recipients of child support payments whose children are visited by their fathers because it is doubtful that visits by absent fathers allow mothers to work longer hours (the fathers probably do not act as child care providers; as shown earlier, most fathers are also working).

An implication of child support studies is that women who receive child support payments use this income to pay for child care, thereby allowing them to increase their work hours. Data show that women who receive both child support payments and visits from absent fathers and those who receive support payments only are the most likely to use child care. However, among working women who use child care, those receiving child support only spend, on average, $38.36 per week for child care, the lowest of the four child support and visitation status groups. In contrast, women who receive both child support and visitation spend the most on child care. Hence, it appears that mothers whose children are visited by absent fathers spend more on child care than do those whose children are not visited. This link between child support, visitation, and child care is particularly important, given that one reason offered for a father's nonpayment of child support is that it is costly and often impossible for the noncustodial parent to control the resources of the custodial parent.[16] Basically, the absent father is less willing to pay support if he is not sure what the mother will do with the money. If the father believed the child support payments would be used to offset child care costs, he might be more willing to pay.

Table 4 presents annual hours and earnings of absent fathers by payment of child support and visitation status. The data reveal that fathers who provide both child support and visitation are the most likely to work, as more than 90 percent were employed in 1987. Among working fathers, it appears that nonpayers of child support (visited children only or neither paid support nor visited) have a greater tendency to work fewer than 1,500 hours a year and have earnings less than $10,000 per year. In contrast, payers of child support (child support only or both child support and visitation) are more apt than nonpayers to work 2,000 or more hours a year and to have earnings of $30,000 or more per year. This positive association between child support payments and earnings might exist because fathers with higher earnings are more likely to have support awards ordered by the courts, or because they are more willing to share their monetary resources with their children.

Hence, while there are differences in hours and earnings between payers and nonpayers of child support, there is little difference between the visitation behavior of these two groups.

Child support-visitation link

While child support and visitation are related to hours of work, the interrelationship between child support and visitation is of considerable debate in itself. On the one hand, advocacy groups representing absent fathers often claim that nonpayment of child support is directly related to mothers with custody denying absent fathers the right to visit their children. The fathers argue that child support payments will increase if they are allowed more contact with their children. On the other hand, activists representing mothers with custody argue that denial of visits is not the issue and even if visits are denied, they believe that this should not affect the payment of child support. These advocacy groups representing mothers claim that child support and visitation should be treated as separate issues.[17]

As mentioned previously, research to date tends to support the argument made by absent fathers that child support payments and visitation are complementary. That is, payments of child support are positively related to frequency of visitation. This positive association persists even after controlling for a number of demographic factors used to predict payments and visitation.[17]

Table 5 shows the relationship between child support payments and visitation by absent fathers. The data from mothers with custody and absent fathers indicate that fathers who pay child support are more likely to visit their children at least once over the past survey year (1987-88) than are fathers who pay no support, which is consistent with findings from previous studies. However, among those who visit, there are considerable differences by frequency of visitation. According to information from fathers, non-payers of child support are more likely than payers to visit daily or 2 to 5 times a week. Nonpayers are also more likely to visit only once within the past year. Fathers who pay support are more apt to visit once a week or between 1 and 3 times a month.

The data from mothers are remarkably similar to that from the fathers. Among mothers, those that indicate they do not receive child support payments are more likely to receive daily visits from the father of their children. Also, their children are more likely to be visited only once in the past year. In addition, recipients of support are most likely to be visited once a week or between 1 and 3 times a week.

Hence, the data from both mothers and fathers suggest that among fathers who visit, nonpayers of child support are more likely to have a great deal of contact with the child (almost on a daily basis) or virtually no contact with the child (once a year). This implies that there is a group of fathers whose daily visits may substitute for child support payments. Yet for other fathers, nonpayment of child support is associated with little or no visits.

MOTHERS WHO RECEIVE child support payments are more likely to work than are those who do not, according to information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Yet, among recipients of child support payments, mothers whose children are visited by the absent father work more hours and have higher earnings than do mothers who receive child support only. Although the use of child day .care services is higher among women who receive child support, average weekly expenditures for such services are higher for mothers whose children are visited by the father. Also, fathers who pay child support work more hours and have higher earnings than do those that do not. In addition, fathers who pay support are more likely to visit their children, but among those who visit, nonpayers are more likely to visit either daily or only once a year.

Footnotes

1 These figures are taken from the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1991 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1991 ).

2 These numbers are taken from Child Support and Alimony: 1987, Special Studies, Series P-23, No. 167 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, 1989).

3 For example, see Irwin Garfinkel, Philip K. Robins, Pat Wong, and Daniel R. Meyer, "The Wisconsin Child Support Assurance System," Journal of Human Resources, vol. 25, no. 1, 1990, pp. 1-31; or Philip K. Robins, "Child Support, Welfare Dependency, and Poverty," American Economic Review, vol. 76, no.4, 1986, pp. 768-88.

4 See Marilyn E. Manser and others, "National Longitudinal Surveys: development and uses," Monthly Labor Review, July 1990, pp. 32-37, or NLsHandbook 1991.

5 See Allyson Sherman Grossman and. Howard Hayghe, "Labor force activity of women receiving child support or alimony," Monthly Labor Review, November 1982, pp. 39-41.

6 Benefits from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) are reduced dollar-for-dollar if child support received is more than $50 per month.

7 See John W. Graham and Andrea H. Beller, "The Effect of Child Support Payments on the Labor Supply of Female Family Heads," Journal of Human Resources, vol. 24, no. 4, 1989, pp. 664-85.

8 For example, see Judith A. Seltzer, Nora Cate Schaeffer, and Hong-Wen Charng, "Family Ties after Divorce: The Relationship between Visiting and Paying Child Support," Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 51, November 1989, pp. 1013-32.

9 The distribution of ages of mothers and fathers is given in Supplement to the monthly vital statistics report: advance reports, 1987, Vital Health Statistics, Series 24, No. 4 (National Center for Health Statistics, 1990).

10 See Andrew Cherlin, Jeanne Griffith, and James McCarthy, "A Note on Maritally-Disrupted Men's Reports of Child Support in the June 1980 Current Population Survey,"Demography, vol. 20, No. 3, August 1983, pp. 385-89.

11 All inferences drawn in the text are statistically significant. Standard errors are available from the author upon request.

12 Remarriage by the custodial mother is found to be negatively related to visitation in Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Christine Winquist Nord, James L. Peterson, and Nicholas Zill, "The Life Course of Children of Divorce: Marital Disruption and Parental Contact," American Sociological Review, vol. 48, October 1983, pp. 656-68. Remarriage by the custodial mother is found to be negatively related to child support receipt in Martha S. Hill, "The role of economic resources and remarriage in financial assistance for children of divorce," Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 1991.

13 In cases where there is more than one child with a nonresident father, the visitation and distance variables are constructed using data for the youngest child.

14 See Grossman and Hayghe, "Labor force activity of women receiving child support or alimony."

15 For a theoretical model which tries to explain why absent fathers do not pay support, see Yoram Weiss and Robert J. Willis, "Children as Collective Goods and Divorce Settlements," Journal of Labor Economics, vol. 3, no. 3, 1985, pp. 268-92.

16 For an example of the debate between custodial parents, see comments by Dick Woods, president of the National Congress for Men, and Margaret Campbell Haynes, chairwoman of the National Commission on Interstate Child Support in "Child Support System Called 'Abysmal,"' The Washington Post, Apr. 5, 1991.

17 See Seltzer, Schaeffer, and Charng, "Family Ties after Divorce: The Relationship between Visiting and Paying Child Support."
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Veum, Jonathan R.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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