Archive for the ‘economic security’ Category

A Father’s Support: More to it Than the Money

March 30, 2015child_support, economic security, fathers

78773852_modAfter seven years in conversation with nearly 400 low-income men, authors of a new study in the Journal of Marriage and Family are lending fresh insight into the ways that low-income fathers support their children in other households. Drawing on repeated semi-structured interviews, Kane, Nelson and Edin find that poor noncustodial fathers provide surprising amounts of support in the form of diapers, clothes, food, and childcare. These non-cash goods and services, referred to as in-kind support, make up about one-quarter of the overall support nonresident fathers provide, and total an average of $60 per month in value. Though paternal support has traditionally been thought of in financial terms, a more comprehensive accounting of fathers’ contributions reveals that in-kind goods and services make up a significant portion of their efforts.

Though paternal support has traditionally been thought of in financial terms, a more comprehensive accounting of fathers’ contributions reveals that in-kind goods and services make up a significant portion of their efforts.

Talk to a noncustodial father though, and he may not think of buying shoes and toys as support at all. In fact, Kane et al. note that the overwhelming characterization of in-kind support by fathers is relational, not financial. Sharing a meal with one’s child is seen as a way of bonding—not a mental calculation involving some share of the child’s overall cost.

To help paint a more comprehensive picture of in-kind support, CFRP analyzed how often Texas men who fathered a child outside of marriage contribute things such as clothes, childcare, food, medicine, or toys by the time the child is 3 years old. Importantly, these fathers established paternity in the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, making an initial commitment to the child and setting themselves apart from the smaller segment of fathers who sidestepped legal parenthood at the birth and are apt to provide much less. Among this group who established legal paternity at the birth, 6 in 10 are still living with the mother and child three years later. For these fathers, the provision of in-kind support is built into their daily lives with the family.

For the remaining 40 percent of fathers who do not live with the mother however, in-kind support is far less assured. When asked how often nonresident fathers provide things such as clothes, food, medicine, toys, or childcare, 4 in 10 mothers report that the father never provides these things, while another 28 percent say that the father only contributes in this way a handful of times throughout the year [Figure 1]. The majority of fathers who fail to provide in-kind support also fail to provide informal financial support, and 54 percent are already in the formal child support system by the time their child is 3 years old (not shown). Though it’s possible that entry into the formal system causes some fathers who were providing in-kind support to dial down or terminate their contributions, a likely scenario for many is that the father was never providing in-kind support to begin with. In these cases, the child support system acts as a safety net, jumpstarting the flow of support and lifting the economic wellbeing of children in its care.

Figure 1: Frequency of In-Kind Support



For more: CFRP’s research on Father Involvement and Support


– by Daniel Dillon, Senior Research Associate


New CFRP Project: How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child in Texas?

August 21, 2014cfrp, child_support, economic security

corcHow much does it cost to raise a child in Texas? Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP), and her team have been tasked to answer that question for the Texas Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division (OAG).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released their Expenditures on Children by Families report with 2013 data. The report shows that a middle-income family in the U.S. is projected to spend $245,340 on a child born in 2013 up to age 18 for food, housing, childcare and education, and other child-rearing expenses. The report also shows that to raise that child in the urban South region, including Texas, is actually lower at $230,610.

However, after a comprehensive review of the Texas Child Support guidelines for the OAG, Dr. Osborne and CFRP determined that the USDA expenditure data are not a suitable source for determining the cost of raising a child in Texas:

  • The USDA data provide only broad expenditure categories for primarily higher income, two-parent families and do not provide the regional variation in costs that may be applicable to Texas families, particularly lower-income families who are more likely to be recipients of child support.
  • Texas is part of the USDA’s urban South region, but the region includes Delaware and the District of Columbia, neither of which are comparable to Texas with respect to cost of living or geographic context.
  • In addition, the expenditure data provide estimates only on what families spend, but provide less information on what the real costs of raising a child include. Costs may be met by families in a variety of ways, such as income from earnings, borrowing, reliance on public assistance, forgoing the good, or spending more than is necessary.
  • The USDA data does not provide information on the costs of raising a child across two households, which is the reality for most children in the child support system. For example, children live most of their time with the custodial parent, but spend a proportion of their time in the noncustodial parent’s household.

Creating a cost estimation model specifically for Texas families and with our high needs populations in mind will result in an invaluable tool for policymakers and programs,” said Dr. Osborne. “It will be the first Texas-specific model and the impact could reach far beyond child support.

As they develop the estimation model of the cost of raising a child in Texas, Dr. Osborne and CFRP will attempt to identify the actual costs associated with childrearing and also illustrate how families across various income levels and social circumstances meet these costs. The model will be replicable on an annual basis and use data that are available publicly at no cost.

“We’ve already started the groundwork and are eager to see how the model develops. Creating a cost estimation model specifically for Texas families and with our high needs populations in mind will result in an invaluable tool for policymakers and programs,” said Dr. Osborne. “It will be the first Texas-specific model and the impact could reach far beyond child support.”

The project research team is led by Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Associate Professor and CFRP Director, and Dr. Kaeley Bobbitt, Senior Policy Analyst. For more about the Estimation Model for Cost of Raising Children in Texas project, go to


How Unmarried Fathers Support Their Children

March 25, 2014child_support, economic security, fathers, paternity

[Related post: When Dads Commit, Kids Benefit]

In addition to providing emotional support to their children, fathers play a crucial role in their children’s development through the provision of financial support. Children with supportive fathers do better across a wide range of cognitive and behavioral domains—from greater academic achievement and improved health to lower rates of delinquency and depression. For some children, the financial support of their fathers can even mean the difference between living above or below the poverty line.

Though there is little doubt that children benefit from financially supportive fathers, more than 2 in 5 children in the U.S. are born to fathers who have no legal obligation to support them. Children born to unmarried parents do not have a legal father until paternity is established, a process completed by most families in the hospital at the time of birth. In Texas, 7 in 10 fathers establish paternity by signing an in-hospital Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form. Over time, roughly one-quarter of these AOP-signing families will enter the formal child support system. Little is known, however, about the three-quarters of AOP-signing families who remain outside the formal child support system, and how fathers in these families support their children, if it all. A better understanding of how unmarried fathers support their children when no legal obligation is present can help shed light on whether the child support system is succeeding in its efforts to ensure children are supported, and may improve targeting for resources aimed at addressing lingering gaps in support.

Drawing on survey data collected from two statewide cohorts of Texas mothers who gave birth outside of marriage, CFRP provides an overview in the How Unmarried Fathers Support Their Children brief of how AOP-signing fathers support their children financially in the years following a nonmarital birth. Not only have these fathers made the initial commitment to their children through establishing paternity, but their status as legal fathers means they have the ability to provide support through both formal and informal means.

Click here for the entire How Unmarried Fathers Support Their Children brief.


For the entire series of related briefs:

  1. Who Establishes Paternity? 
  2. Why Parents Establish Paternity
  3. Fathers in the First Few Months: A Study of Unmarried Fathers and Their Children
  4. How Unmarried Fathers Support Their Children

New CFRP Report about Father Involvement after a Nonmarital Birth

November 14, 2013child_support, economic security, fathers, paternity

cfrp_report_cover_thumbThe percentage of nonmarital births in the United States doubled between 1980 and 2011. Currently in Texas, 42 percent of recent births are to unmarried mothers. This dramatic rise in the number of nonmarital births is of growing concern because of the precarious economic status of single parents (most often mothers) and children. Moreover, there are a host of negative social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes associated with children who live in poor single-parent families, especially when those families lack involved and supportive fathers.

One strategy to promote a father’s financial and emotional investment in his child—while also formalizing the legal rights and responsibilities of fatherhood—is to encourage the establishment of paternity. Paternity establishment is the legal determination of fatherhood. It serves as a tool to promote responsibility, encourage father involvement, and provide legal access to a cadre of attendant benefits and rights. Furthermore, research shows that fathers who voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form in the hospital are more likely to be involved and supportive, which can lead to improved child outcomes.

In CFRP’s newest report, A Portrait of Father Involvement and Support in the First Three Years after a Nonmarital Birth, we examine the intersection of in-hospital acknowledgment of paternity (AOP), formal child support, informal support, parental relationships, and father involvement. The report’s aim is to give a broad understanding of the characteristics associated with each topic. To address the research aims related to this report, CFRP conducted two separate studies: The Paternity Establishment Study (PES) and Checking in with AOP Signers (CAS) Study. Information from the PES and CAS studies are used extensively throughout the report.

Full report: A Portrait of Father Involvement and Support in the First Three Years after a Nonmarital Birth.

Click for CFRP policy briefs, posts, and more about Paternity Establishment and Father Involvement.

The CAS Study: Increasing Father Involvement Through Paternity Establishment

May 22, 2013child_support, economic security, fathers, paternity

153148996_smTwo married parents living in one household with their children once comprised the normative family in the United States. Today, approximately 41 percent of children are born to unmarried parents and nearly one third of children live apart from at least one of their biological parents.1 These changes in family structure are cause for concern because unmarried fathers have no automatic legal ties to their children, and children living apart from at least one parent are considerably more likely to live in poverty and spend less time with the noncustodial parent.2

One strategy to ensure that unmarried fathers have legal ties to their children and to improve their financial and emotional investment in their children is to establish paternity in the hospital at the time of birth through parental signing of an Acknowledgement of Paternity Form (AOP).

The CFRP team has been conducting multiple large scale surveys over the last few months, as part of a paternity establishment project funded by the Texas Office of the Attorney General – Child Support Division (OAG). The first, called the Checking-in with AOP Signers (CAS) Study, recently wrapped up, and it examines the important role that fathers play in their children’s lives. For the study, CFRP targeted a geographically representative group of Texas families who had a child outside of marriage and established paternity in the hospital. Some of the families recruited to participate had entered the child support system and others had not.

Preliminary findings of the CAS Study show that approximately 69% of the fathers were living with their child’s mother when the child was born. Before the child’s fourth birthday, however, this initial involvement began to fade for many families. By the time the child was 3-1/2 years old, fewer than two out of five fathers lived with their child. With regard to financial support, of fathers who established paternity for their child at birth, approximately one-third enter the formal child support system by the time the child is 3-1/2, although not all of these fathers provide support regularly. Of the fathers who are not in the formal child support system or living with their child, fewer than half (48%) provide any form of financial or in-kind support to the mother and child. The CAS Study is investigating factors that may increase and prolong father involvement and support as well as topics such as the understanding of paternity establishment among Hispanic mothers, the effect of multiple births on mothers’ knowledge of paternity and child support, domestic violence and child support compliance, and many more topics affecting the wellbeing of Texas families. Additional findings from the CAS Study will be released later this year.


  1. Martin J.A., Hamilton B.E., Ventura, S.J., Osterman, M.J.K., Kirmeyer, S., Mathews, T.J., & Wilson, E.C. (2011). Births: Final data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports, 60(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from
  2. US Census Bureau. (2010). [Table C3 September 21, 2011]. Living arrangements of children under 18 Years/1 and marital status of parents, by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin/2 and selected characteristics of the child for all children: 2010. Retrieved from‐fam/cps2010.html.