This Collection focuses on three policy areas in which there has been extensive examination of their effects on family formation: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) programs; federal tax policies; and child support enforcement/responsible fatherhood programs. For purposes of this Collection, child support enforcement and responsible fatherhood programs are combined.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive collection of resources, but a selection of recent documents which have informed the field and that are, for the most part, easily accessible (and whenever possible,available online). Additional publications and resources will be posted periodically as they come to our attention.

The NHMRC would like to thank the Administration for Children and Families Office of Financial Assistance for their support in the preparation of this Collection by Topic. Any views expressed in the papers and resources presented in this Collection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the NHMRC.

We also would like to thank the following persons who contributed to the development of this collection: Adam Thomas, PhD, Research Director, Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution and Theodora Ooms, MSW, a couples and marriage policy consultant. Additionally, Leah Rubio, MS, Rich Batten, M. Ed, THM, CFLE, and Courtney Harrison, MPA of the NHMRC contributed to this Collection.

Table of Contents


Definitions and Acronyms

Linking Family Behavior and Economics

Overview of Policies Affecting Family Formation

The Effects of Welfare, Tax and Child Support Enforcement Policy



Economic factors play an important role in influencing decisions about when and whether to have children, cohabit, marry, separate or divorce. In recent decades, these behaviors have changed dramatically with the increase in non-marital childbearing, cohabitation, delays in age of marriage, and increases in divorce. This has led to larger numbers and percentages of children being raised in single-parent families, especially among low-income populations. This trend has played a major role in the persistence of child poverty and growing economic inequality.

For many years, public officials and the public alike have raised questions about the roles government policies play in contributing to these family trends. A wide range of federal and state policies affect family life and circumstances, both directly and indirectly. The primary concern has been whether the structure of these policies/programs inadvertently discourages marriage –especially among low-income populations — or whether they could potentially encourage and support marriage. Another question surrounding the policies is if policies are neutral toward family structure.

Definitions and Acronyms

AFDC: Aid to Families with Dependent Children; established by the Social Security Act of 1935 to enable states to provide cash welfare payments.

CSE/PE Child Support Enforcement Program/Paternity Establishment:   A federal/state program designed to establish paternity legally, and enforce non-custodial parents' payment of their financial obligations to support their children.

EITC: The EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families.

"Fragile Families": Families formed by the birth of a non-marital child; these families are at greater risk of breaking up and living in poverty than more traditional families.

"Multiple Partner Fertility": Men or women who have children with more than one partner.

TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; replaced AFDC; block grant gives states broad flexibility to implement the program within the four broad purposes of the law, three of which address family formation.

Linking Family Behavior and Economics

The documents in this section provide general background information on a) the research on the economic determinants and consequences of family formation behavior, especially in disadvantaged populations and b) the broad scope of policies affecting family formation which ultimately has economic consequences. Economists and other scholars have developed an extensive body of research about the economic underpinnings of marriage, and have identified many different economic factors that play a role in both the decline in marriage and the rise in single-parent households. Further, researchers have documented the economic consequences of these trends in increasing child poverty rates and reshaping gender roles. The documents selected in this section address some of these themes especially as they relate to economically disadvantaged populations.

Edin, K. & Kefalas, M. (2005). Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA.
The authors found that low-income mothers placed a high value on marriage and wanted to marry some day. However, they expected their partner to: have a steady income, be able to pay a mortgage, and pay for the expenses of a proper wedding. If these expectations could not be met, since they highly valued children, they saw no reason to wait to marry before they had a child.

Edin, K. & Reed, J. (2005). Why Don't They Just Get Married: Barriers to Marriage Among the Disadvantaged. Marriage and Family Child Wellbeing. 15(2).
This paper reviews recent research on social and economic barriers to marriage among the poor and discusses the efficacy of efforts by federal and state policymakers to promote marriage among poor unmarried couples (especially those with children). Such barriers include marital aspirations and expectations, norms about childbearing, financial standards for marriage, the quality of relationships, an aversion to divorce, and children by other partners.

Ellwood, D.T. and Jencks, C., (2004) The Uneven Spread of Single-parent Families: What do we Know? Where do we Look for Answers? Chapter 1 inSocial Inequality edited by Kathryn M. Neckerman. NY: Russell Sage Foundation. This opening chapter in a wide-ranging volume on social inequality reports on the growing class differences in the incidence of single-parent families. It documents the evidence of the effects of single-parenthood on child poverty and well-being. The chapter offers a critical review of the growing body of research on explanatory factors, and in particular, explores the role of wages, welfare benefits, cultural norms and sex ratios in these factors.

Fein, D. J., Burstein, N.R., Fein, G., Lindberg, L. ( 2003) The Determinants of Marriage and Cohabitation among Disadvantaged Americans: Research Findings and Needs. The final report of the marriage and family formation data analysis project, this paper considers economic influences within the context of demographics, sociocultural characteristics and psychological influences.

Fein, D. (2004). Married and Poor: Basic Characteristics of Economically Disadvantaged Couples in the U.S. Supporting Healthy Marriage Evaluation Working Paper.
This paper assembles and assesses recent descriptive statistics on the formation and stability, characteristics, and quality of marriages in the low-income population of the U.S. In addition to culling findings from published reports, it also provides new findings from several recent surveys. 

Fein, D. & Ooms, T. (June 2006). What Do We Know About Couples and Marriage in Disadvantaged Populations? Reflections from a Researcher and a Policy Analyst. Center for Law and Social Policy.
A conceptual framework is developed which identifies the complex dimensions, interactions and multi-disciplinary nature of research on marriage and related issues facing economically disadvantaged populations. Key findings from research on Fragile Families, cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing are highlighted and discussed in terms of their implications for policy.

Lerman, R. I. (2002). Marriage and the Economic Well-Being of Families with Children. Urban Institute.
This paper presents the observed differences in income by marital status, examines studies of the impact of higher marriage propensities on incomes, of gains in marriage relative to cohabitation, of the stimulus to male earnings associated with marriage, and of the changes in economic well-being associated with entry into marriage, divorce, remarriage, and parenthood.

Nock, S.L (2005). Marriage as a public issue. Marriage and Child Wellbeing. The Future of Children Vol 15, Number 2, Fall 2005. pp 13-32.
The author reviews the research evidence about demographic trends and the larger cultural, social and economic forces that have shaped them. He notes that most policy strategies have focused on economic and service strategies to influence individuals' behavior, rather than the cultural context.

Thomas, A, and Sawhill, I. ( 2005) For love and money? The impact of family structure on family income. Marriage and Child Wellbeing. Edited by Sara McLanahan, Elisabeth Donahue and Ron Haskins. The Future of Children. Vol 15, NO 2. pp 57-74. Fall 2005.
The authors summarize an extensive body of research to document how differing family structures can be expected to affect families' economic well-being. They find that the increase in single parent households has been a large part of the cause of increased child poverty.

Wilson, W.J. (1987). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
This book gained a great deal of attention when reporting on the findings of detailed studies of the inner city Chicago identified male joblessness, a result of the extensive deindustrialization, which through undermining men's capacity to provide for their families, seems to play a strong role in the low marriage rates among the urban poor, especially African Americans.

Wilson, W.J. ( 1996). When Work Disappears: The World of New Urban Poverty. NY: Alfred Knopf.
In this book the author modifies his earlier thesis and places greater weight on cultural factors and their interaction with economic. He stated that "the weaker the norms against premarital sex, out of-wedlock pregnancy and non-marital parenthood, the more that economic considerations affect the decision to marry." p.97

Overview of Policies Affecting Family Formation

The popular understanding of the role government plays in family formation is generally limited to two functions performed by state government: granting marriage licenses and issuing divorce decrees. At the same time the government has long played a role in reproductive behavior, funding family planning activities, teen pregnancy prevention programs and health programs designed to promote healthy births. In recent decades, however, leaders at the national, state and even local levels have looked at expanding the role of government, especially in funding efforts designed to strengthen marriage and reduce non-marital childbearing. This reflects, in part, the rising concern about the negative effects of single parenthood on children. The documents selected in this section provide a framework and a review of the wide range of federal and state policy strategies that are being explored and tested to promote and strengthen healthy marriage and discourage non-marital childbearing.

Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2004). Encouraging Strong Family Relationships. Policy Matters Project. Brief No. 6.
This brief provides a broad framework for thinking about the different ways in which government policy can encourage strong family relationships. It includes policies that aim to prevent out-of-wedlock births and teen pregnancy, support and education services to strengthen marriage, removal of tax disincentives for marriage, providing health services and family leave policies to support new parents, strengthening child support and father involvement, divorce and custody programs, and improving domestic violence and child welfare programs.

Gardiner, K., Fishman, M., Nikolov, P., Glosser, A., & Laud, S. (2002). State Policies to Promote Marriage.
This document inventories marriage policies in the 50 states and District of Columbia in 10 broad areas.

Jarchow, C. (2003). Strengthening Marriage and Two-Parent Families. National Conference of State Legislatures.
This brief provides an overview of why marriage promotion was being discussed on the national social agenda and summarizes key statistics, issues and policy strategies to improve marital relationships.

Ooms, T. (1998). Toward More Perfect Unions: Putting Marriage on the Public Agenda. Family Impact Seminar.
This report paints a preliminary landscape of marriage as a public issue and develops a framework for a public agenda on marriage. Drawing upon a set of conference papers and discussions it reviews the causes and consequences of changes in family trends, and discusses nine different strategies to strengthen and support marriage at federal, state and local levels.

Ooms, T., Bouchet, S., & Parke, M. (2004). Beyond Marriage Licenses: Efforts in States to Strengthen Marriage and Two-Parent Families. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy.
This report is the first to provide a state-by-state snapshot of activities begun since the mid-1990s that are explicitly designed to strengthen and promote marriage and to reduce divorce and that involve some level of government as a sponsor, funder, or otherwise active partner. In addition, the report includes activities designed to promote cooperative relationships between parents who are not married.

Roberts, P. (2008). Implications of Multiple Partner Fertility for Efforts to Promote Marriage in Programs Serving Low-Income Mothers and Fathers. Center for Law and Social Policy.
This brief summarizes what is known about multiple partner fertility in fragile families, and discusses the implications for efforts to promote healthy marriage in this population.

White, D & Kaplan, J. (June 2003). The State's Role in Supporting Marriage and Family Formation.
Several state and federal policies can have an impact on marriage and the decision to marry, including tax policies, child support requirements, divorce laws, and eligibility and participation requirements for public benefits. Public policies may have a greater influence on the marriage decisions of couples who are poor and dependent on government benefits.

The Effects of Welfare, Tax and Child Support Enforcement Policy

The resources in this section discuss some of the findings of research to date on the consequences of welfare and other transfer programs, tax policies, and child support enforcement on family formation behavior. The key questions many of the studies we have included seek to answer is whether the programs inadvertently place economic incentives or disincentives on a couple to marry or divorce.

As explained in the description of the ACF Marriage Calculator, marriage may influence couple's finances in a number of ways. For example, if a low-income single mother gets married to a man who earns an income, she may see changes in the amount of income tax she owes, and the amount of benefits she is eligible for through various transfer programs including: TANF, food stamps, subsidized child care, subsidized housing, health insurance, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental feeding program. The total financial resources of the woman and man might be higher or lower depending on whether they live apart, cohabit, and report it to government programs; cohabit and do not report it to government programs; or get married. It also can depend on whether they have any child support obligations.

A few of the documents listed identify and analyze the complex interactions between cash assistance and other welfare programs ( e.g. food stamps, Medicaid etc) and tax policies such as EITC.

Welfare Reform Programs

Prior to 1996, AFDC was "welfare."  It was replaced with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) which authorized the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), known more commonly as "welfare reform."  PRWORA put forth four broad goals for TANF, three of these emphasize family formation:

States have the flexibility to develop programs and services to meet these broad goals. There were no federal requirements directly related to affecting family formation outcomes.  Neither family caps, significant changes in the two-parent AFDC-UP  program, prohibitions of benefits to unmarried mothers, nor marriage strengthening educational programs –  among the family formation strategies tried by some states–were mandated by the federal government.  Hence the major impact of PRWORA on family outcomes was expected to operate indirectly from the reduction of benefits and eligibility that resulted from the main provisions of the bill (Moffitt 1998, p.6.)  On the one hand TANF policies could make receipt of cash assistance less attractive and less viable for women and marriage more attractive. On the other hand if the increased emphasis on work led to increased independence for women, this could reduce their desire or need for marriage.

Administration for Children and Families (Posted in 2006)   The Marriage Calculator: Financial Consequences of Marriage Decisions. 
This marriage calculator was created as a tool to help policymakers, researchers and the public understand how marital status, living arrangements, income and access to government services interact. Users can see how taxes and public assistance change when a couple's living arrangement changes from living apart to cohabiting to married.

Haskins, R. & Sawhill, I. (2003).Work and Marriage: The Way to End Poverty and Welfare, The Brookings Institution Policy Brief. 
Making cash and related forms of public assistance more generous with strategies that encourage work and marriage is discussed in this brief.  

 Knab, J., Garfinkel, I., McLanahan, S., Moiduddin, E. & Osborne, C. (2008).The Effects of Welfare and Child Support Policies on the Incidence of Marriage Following a Nonmarital Birth.  Welfare Reform and Its Long-Term Consequences for America's Poor. James P. Ziliak (Ed).
A diverse array of survey and administrative data are brought to bear to examine the effects of welfare reform and the concomitant expansions of the EITC on the level and distribution of income, the composition of consumption, employment, public versus private health insurance coverage, health and education outcomes of children, marriage, and social service delivery.

Moffitt, R. A., Reville, R. & Winkler, A. E. (1995).Beyond Single Mothers: Cohabitation, Marriage, and the U.S. Welfare SystemInstitute for Research on Poverty Discussion Paper no. 1068-95.
The extent and implications of cohabitation and marriage among U.S. welfare recipients are examined in this paper. Results indicate that, in a number of respects, cohabitation is encouraged by the AFDC rules but an analysis of the impact of AFDC rules on cohabitation, marriage, and headship, found weak evidence in support of incentives to cohabit.

Moffitt, R.A. ed. (1998) Welfare, the Family and Reproductive Behavior. Washington DC National Academy Press.
The papers examined the effects of welfare on marriage and fertility, the connections between welfare and abortion, the effect of pre-PRWORA welfare reform interventions on family outcomes, and the effect of welfare on children.  Chapter 4 reviews the large research literature on whether the welfare system laws discouraged marriage and encouraged childbearing.

Rangarajan, A., Castner, L., & Clark, M.A. (2005).Public Assistance Use Among Two-Parent Families: An Analysis of TANF and Food Stamp Program Eligibility and Participation.  Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
One of the very few studies to examine the patterns of welfare and food stamp (FSP) use among married-parent households, the study found that eligibility and participation rates in TANF and FSP are considerably lower for married-parent families than for single-parent families. Demographic and financial circumstances explain much of the difference in eligibility rates but they do not explain the difference in participation rates.

Roberts, P. & Greenberg, M. (2005).Marriage and the TANF Rules: A Discussion Paper. Center for Law and Social Policy.
AFDC rules related to family structure and to the options available under TANF are analyzed; the paper describes some of the research addressing the effects of AFDC and TANF on family formation decisions and suggests concrete policies that would neither discourage marriage nor disadvantage children being raised in single-parent families. The paper points out many of the complexities involved, and in an appendix has an extensive discussion of the questions that states need to raise about how to treat step -parent income in eligibility and benefit calculation.

Zippay, A. & Rangarajan, A. (2005).In Their Own Words: WFNJ Clients Speak About Family, Work, and Welfare. Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
This document examines how families in New Jersey were faring under the new welfare reform issues related to their work life and child care arrangements, including welfare experiences and attitudes toward TANF and WFNJ (Work First New Jersey). In addition, the authors observe their attitudes toward marriage and the roles that the fathers of their children play in their lives and their children's lives, as well as their housing situations and attitudes about their neighborhoods.

Income Tax Policy

There has long been controversy about whether the structure of the federal tax code – progressivity together with taxing married couples as a single unit-creates a marriage penalty for two earner families because their joint incomes  may push the couple into a higher tax bracket.  Modifications enacted over the years have served to reduce this penalty for some.  More recently the focus has been on examining ways to reduce the marriage penalty in the EITC. The EITC provides a considerable subsidy to low-income working parents but phases out at around the $14,000 income level.  This creates an inherent disincentive to low income working couples/parents to marry.  When combined with the disincentives in many of the transfer programs many analysts find that a significant negative impact on family formation exists.

Acs, G. & Maag, E. (2005). Irreconcilable Differences? The Conflict between Marriage Promotion Initiatives for Cohabiting Couples with Children and Marriage Penalties in Tax and Transfer Programs.  The Urban Institute.
Nationally representative data on cohabiting couples with children from the 2002 round of the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF) is analyzed to assess the marriage penalties or bonuses facing these couples. In addition to examining the consequences of current (2003) federal tax laws, this brief assesses the incentives that will be in place in 2008 as the final marriage-related provisions of 2001's tax reform phase in. Finally, the brief incorporates potential changes in transfer income received through welfare (specifically TANF) in assessing marriage penalties and bonuses for low-income cohabiting couples with children.

Berube, A., Gale, W.G. & Kronblatt, T. (2005). Tax Subsidies to Help Working Families in Cities. Tax Policy Center. Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
How federal tax policy could improve the economic prospects of low- and middle-income working families in cities, with a specific focus on initiatives that improve opportunities for work, child care, retirement saving, homeownership, and health insurance coverage is examined.

Carasso, A. & Steuerle, C. E. (2002).How Marriage Penalties Change Under the 2001 Tax Bill.  Urban Institute.
The various provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA)are examined. Changes in marriage penalties and subsidies for different, hypothetical pairings of heads of household with single workers filing a joint return are highlighted.  The research focuses on ways to examine the additional marriage penalties that heads of household face in the way of loss of valuable tax benefits for which two single, childless taxpayers who marry would not be eligible.

Carasso, A., Steurele, C. E. (2002).Saying 'I Do' after the 2001 Tax Cuts. Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Higher marriage penalties that heads of household filers marrying single filers often confront is the focus of this paper. There is a loss of valuable children's tax benefits for which single, childless taxpayers who marry would not be eligible. Specifically, the paper models six pertinent provisions of the law and finds that (1) overall, the tax cut substantially reduces marriage penalties/increases marriage subsidies for most hypothetical married couples and (2) that the expanded child tax credit delivers the most relief of any provision.

Carasso, A. & Steuerle, C. E. (2005).The Hefty Penalty on Marriage Facing Many Households with Children. Urban Institute.
This article reviews important penalties and subsidies, explains how they work, and helps fill a research gap by beginning to provide comprehensive data on the size of the penalties and subsidies arising from all public programs considered together.

Congressional Budget Office, (1997, June),For Better of For Worse: Marriage and the Federal  Income Tax Washington, DC: Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office.
The tax system is very complex, and changing it is a highly complicated, technical matter.  At the time the report was written there were over sixty provisions in the federal tax code that addressed marriage. These created as many marriage bonuses as there are penalties, and it is difficult to reduce the penalties without also affecting the bonuses.

Ellwood, D. T. (2000).The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Policy Reforms on Work, Marriage and Living Arrangements. 53(4). 
The impact of the dramatic changes in the social policies, particularly the expansion of the EITC and welfare reform on labor supply, marriage, and cohabitation is examined. The results strongly indicate expanded work by single mothers and reductions of work by married mothers in accordance with their changed incentives. By contrast, estimated impacts on marriage are small and ambiguous, though modest changes in cohabitation in the predicted direction suggest that impact on family structure might become more apparent in the future.

Ellwood, D. & Sawhill, I.V. (2000).Fixing the Marriage Penalty in the EITC. The Brookings Institution.
A brief examination of the key policy issues surrounding the EITC and marriage penalties is provided. The authors propose to phase out the "plateau phase of the EITC for low-income married couples."

Roberts, A and Blankenhorn, D. (2006)The Other Marriage Penalty: A New Proposal to Eliminate the Marriage Penalty for Low-Income Americans.  Center for Marriage and Families, Institute for American Values. 
An introduction to the issue of marriage penalties and describes the uniquely high marriage penalty imposed on many low- income couples is given. The brief also features a new proposal to solve the problem.

Child Support Enforcement Policy and Responsible Fatherhood Programs

The mission of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to enhance the well-being of children by assuring that families have assistance in obtaining financial support through establishing paternity, establishing support obligations, and monitoring and enforcing those obligations. The child support system initially set out to recover costs for the state and federal government, and to pursue "irresponsible deadbeat" dads.  In recent years it has introduced many efforts to pass through  much of the child support the states collect to the custodial parents (typically mothers), and to explore ways of helping low income "dead broke"  fathers get jobs to enable them to pay what they owe. While the phrase "Responsible Fatherhood" is used to describe a wide variety of services for fathers, programs typically target low-income noncustodial fathers and provide a combination of employment services and group-based curricula aimed at helping men develop their relationship with their children. In addition some programs address issues related to child support and barriers related to incarceration. The documents selected in this section address the relationship between paternity, child support enforcement, responsible fatherhood programs and family formation.

Cancian, M. & Meyer, D. R. with the assistance of Youseok Choi. (2006).Effects of the Full Child Support Pass-Through/Disregard on Marriage and Cohabitation.  Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the Institute for Research on Poverty. 
Wisconsin implemented an experimental child support policy that allowed all support paid by nonresident fathers of children on welfare to be passed through to the mother and fully disregarded in calculating cash assistance. A study was conducted to assess the policy's influence on family structure. Overall, the results showed that increased child support increases women's economic independence, reducing the incentive for women to cohabit with men who are not related to their children.

Carlson, M. & McLanahan, S. (2002)."Fragile Families, Father Involvement, and Public Policy." InHandbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.  Tamis-LeMonda and Cabrera (Eds.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
This chapter describes trends in non-marital childbearing since the mid-1900s, and defines the concept of fragile families and relationships in these families. It also describes how, contrary to the public perception, the majority of unmarried fathers are romantically attached to the mothers of their children at their birth and want to do well by their children.  It discusses how public policies-welfare, child support, and fatherhood programs-affect father involvement in fragile families.

Carlson, M., Garfinkel, I., McLanahan, S., Mincy, R. & Primus, W. (2004). The Effects of Welfare and Child Support Policies on Union Formation.  Population Research and Policy Review. 23(5/6): 513-542.
How  welfare and child support policies, and local labor market conditions, affect union formation among unmarried parents who have just had a child together is examined.  The paper finds that, contrary to some previous research, higher welfare benefits discourage couples from breaking up; strong child support enforcement reduces the chances that unmarried parents will marry; and local unemployment rates do not appear to be strongly associated with union formation decisions after a non-marital birth.

The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. (2003) The Effects of Welfare and Child Support Policies on Union Formation.  Fragile Families Research, Brief No. 20.
The research reported in this brief suggests that welfare and child support policies do affect union formation and dissolution among couples who have a child outside of marriage. Strong child support enforcement is linked to a greater likelihood of couples' breaking up, either before or after a nonmarital birth; this finding runs counter to previous studies which show that strong enforcement encourages family formation.

Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K., & Wong, J. J. (2009). Promoting fathers' engagement with children: Preventive interventions for low-income families. Journal of Marriage and Family,71, 663-679. 
In this study, 289 couples from primarily low-income Mexican American and European American families were randomly assigned to one of three conditions and followed for 18 months. Compared with families in the low-dose comparison condition, intervention families showed positive effects on fathers' engagement with their children, couple relationship quality, and children's problem behaviors. Participants in couples' groups showed more consistent, longer term positive effects than those in fathers-only groups. Intervention effects were similar across family structures, income levels, and ethnicities. 

Fertig, A., Garfinkel, I., McLanahan, S. S. (2005). The Effect of Child Support Enforcement on Bargaining Power Among Married and Cohabiting CouplesCenter for Research on Child Wellbeing. Working Paper #05-08-FF.
This paper reports evidence that living in a state with stricter child support enforcement increases the bargaining power of married mothers, but reduces the bargaining power of cohabiting mothers.  Furthermore, among mothers who were cohabiting at birth, only those who marry the father after the birth are better off in stricter states.  In contrast, mothers who remain in cohabiting relationships or who break-up with the father are significantly more likely to be depressed, worried, and experience hardship in stricter enforcement states.

Garfinkel, I., McLanahan, S. S., Meadows, S. O., & Mincy, R. B. (2009).Unmarried Fathers' Earnings Trajectories: Does Partnership Status Matter? Working Paper #09-02-FF. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing.
Married men earn more than unmarried men. Previous research suggests that marriage itself "causes" some of the difference, but includes few men who fathered children out of wedlock. This paper asks whether increasing marriage (and possibly cohabitation) following a non-marital birth is likely to increase fathers' earnings and labor supply. Results provide some support for the idea that increasing marriage will lead to increased fathers' earnings.

 Knox, V., Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P. with Bildner, E. (2009).Policies that Strengthen Fatherhood and Family Relationships: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know? Paper presented at Conference on Young Disadvantaged Men: Fathers, Families and Policy.  Institute for Research on Poverty and the Columbia University School of Social Work.  Sept 14-15, 2009 Madison, Wisconsin. Institute for Research on Poverty.  Discussion Paper no. 1376-10. 
This paper discusses two different kinds of family policy meant to strengthen fathers' responsibility and involvement with their children – fatherhood programs targeting disadvantaged noncustodial fathers and programs targeting couples (married or unmarried).  It focuses on what has been learned from intervention research about both types of programs.

McLanahan, S. & Carlson, M. (2005). Welfare Reform, Fertility and Father Involvement. The Future of Children: Children and Welfare Reform. 12(1): 147-165.
This article focuses on the important role that fathers play in children's lives and how public policies have affected childbearing and father involvement.  

Nepomnyaschy, L. & Garfinkel, I. (2007).Child Support, Fatherhood, and Marriage: Findings from First Five Years of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Asian Social Work and Policy Review. 1(1): 1-20.
The article first describes the parents' circumstances at the time of the child's birth, then examines the trajectories of parents' relationships (with each other and others), fathers' financial contributions and other indicators of fathers' involvement with their children 5 years later; and finally reviews what has been learned about the effect of child support enforcement on these three aspects of families' lives.

Nepomnyaschy, L. & Garfinkel, I. (2007). Child Support Enforcement and Fathers' Contributions to their Nonmarital Children.  Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. Working Paper #2006-09-FF.
Research shows that stronger child support enforcement increases the amount of formal support received by children from their nonresident fathers. The effects on total payments are negative for partners who stopped cohabiting recently and positive for partners who never cohabited or stopped cohabiting three or more years ago. 

Plotnick, R., Garfinkel, I., McLanahan, S. S. & Ku, I. (2007).The Impact of Child Support Enforcement Policy on Nonmarital Childbearing. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 26(1): 79-98.
This report examines childbearing behavior between the ages of 15 and 44 before marriage and during periods of non-marriage following divorce or widowhood. The estimates indicate that women living in states with more effective child support enforcement are less likely to bear children when unmarried, especially if they are young, never-married, or black. The findings suggest that improved child support enforcement may be a potent intervention for reducing nonmarital childbearing.