Child Support in Immigrant Families

Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Louis Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this study, we use nationally representative data from the U.S. Current Population Survey-Child Support Supplement (N = 28,047) to examine differences in nonresident fathers’ material contributions between children of native and foreign-born mothers. We focus on contributions provided through the formal child support system (whether the mother has a child support agreement and the amount received), as well as support provided informally (the amount of informal cash and whether she receives any in-kind support). We control for a variety of individual and household characteristics, including whether the nonresident father lives in a different state or in a different country. We find that foreign-born mothers are much less likely to have a child support agreement than native-born mothers, but have similar amounts of formal support, once an agreement is in place. Compared to native-born mothers, foreign-born mothers are also much less likely to receive in-kind support, but this difference is completely explained by fathers’ distance from the child. Foreign-born mothers do not differ at all on the amount of informal cash support received from fathers. Nonresident fathers’ residence outside the U.S. is an important mechanism through which nativity affects the likelihood of having a child support order and receiving any in-kind support, but not the amount of formal support (given an order) or the amount of informal cash support. Aggregate comparisons mask important differences within the foreign-born group by mothers’ and children’s citizenship status, years in the U.S., and region of origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-840
Number of pages24
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 21 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Child support
  • Children in immigrant families
  • Citizenship
  • Custodial mothers
  • Nativity
  • Nonresident fathers


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