Sunday, June 19, 2005

Child support laws may reduce unwed fathers :: WaPo
File under: unintended consequence, pleasant; people respond to incentives

The percentage of unmarried births in the United States has increased from 10 percent in the 1960s to about a third of all births today. Because children of single parents run a higher risk of poverty, academic failure and other problems, lawmakers seek policies that will discourage unwed births - usually focusing on the mothers.
Researchers said their study recognizes the father's responsibility.

"Decisions about sexual intercourse and marriage involve two people," said study co-author Irwin Garfinkel, a Columbia University professor and one of the nation's top experts on child support.

The study, which has not yet been published, looked at a nationwide sample of 5,195 women of childbearing age using data from 1980 to 1993.

It did not show whether tougher child support laws prevented pregnancies or encouraged marriage. Plotnick said the data limited the researchers to observing a strong correlation between tough child support enforcement and fewer out-of-wedlock births. Whether that is caused by fewer unmarried people getting pregnant or more couples marrying when the woman is expecting, he could not say.




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