Falling Further Behind? Child Support Arrears and Fathers' Labor Force Participation

Soc Serv Rev. 2012 Dec;86(4):604-635. doi: 10.1086/668761.


This study examines how child support arrears affect fathers' labor force participation. It relies on longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study. Findings from analyses of these data suggest that child support arrears result in declines in average weeks worked in the formal labor market in subsequent time periods. These findings are driven by the behaviors of fathers who had relatively high amounts of arrears and no income in the previous year and are mostly robust to tests for selection into no work or low levels of work by fathers. Findings also suggest that arrears obligations that are low relative to income result in increases in the probability that fathers engage in any formal work. Arrears are not statistically significantly related to informal labor force participation. This study highlights both intended and unintended consequences of the growth in arrears under current child support enforcement policies.