Benefits of Child Support Have Implications for Policy

Article excerpt

Children who benefit from child support payments seem to fare better than those who obtain the same amount of money from welfare, according to a Cornell study. And when child support stems from an agreement between parents rather than a court-ordered one, the children do even better.

"We now have evidence that money from child support may have a direct positive effect on children's cognitive development and educational attainment," says Elizabeth Peters, professor of consumer economics and housing.

How far children go in school also is influenced by other factors, such as family income, education of parents, family structure and composition, and residential location, according to an earlier study by Peters.

"Some of these findings have important implications for policy," says Peters, an expert on the economic dimensions of marriage, divorce, child custody, and child support, who makes a concerted effort to bridge the gap between research and family policy. "Since we now know, for example, that fathers' child support payments have benefits beyond their economic value, we should consider this when developing policy."

Peters suggests that policies such as the new welfare reform bill should encourage equitable child support guidelines and cooperative child support agreements.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Peters has explored mothers' dependence on welfare and its relationship to child support. Peters also is a principal investigator with the Family and Child Well-Being Research Network funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a network of scholars who are applying research findings on children to public policy.

One reason for the link between child support and children's success could be that when fathers pay child support, they are more likely to be active in the children's lives. …