Child protective services
The effect of child support on selection into marriage and fertility
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming
This paper studies the expansion of U.S. child support policies from 1977 to 1992 and its consequences for marriage and fertility decisions. I develop a model showing that child support enforces ex ante commitment from men to provide financial support in the event of a child, which (1) increases premarital sex among couples unlikely to marry, and (2) reduces the abortion rate, by reducing the cost of child-rearing to single moms. Using variation in the rollout relative to the timing of nonmarital pregnancy, I find that child support policies reduced the likelihood of marriage and reduced the abortion rate.
America's Hidden Foster Care System
Stanford Law Review, forthcoming
In most states, child protection agencies induce parents to transfer physical custody of their children to kinship caregivers by threatening to place the children in foster care and bring them to family court. Both the frequency of these actions - this Article establishes that they occur tens and likely hundreds of thousands of times annually - and their impact - they separate parents and children, sometimes permanently - resemble the formal foster care system. But they are hidden from courts because agencies file no petition alleging abuse or neglect and from policymakers because agencies do not generally report these cases. While informal custody changes can sometimes serve children's and families' interests by preventing state legal custody, this hidden foster care system raises multiple concerns, presciently raised in Supreme Court dicta in 1979. State agencies infringe on parents' and children's fundamental right to family integrity with few meaningful due process checks. Agencies avoid legal requirements to make reasonable efforts to reunify parents and children, licensing requirements intended to ensure that kinship placements are safe, and requirements to pay foster care maintenance payments to kinship caregivers. This Article explains how the present child protection funding system and recent federal financing reforms further incentivize hidden foster care without regulating it. Moreover, relatively recent state statutes and policies codify the practice without providing much of any regulation. In contrast to this trend, this Article argues for regulation - the opportunity for a parent to challenge the need for the custody change in court, limits on the length of time such custody changes can remain in effect without more formal action, the provision of counsel to parents (using money from a separate recent change in federal child protection funding), and requiring states to report cases in which its actions lead to parent-child separations.
New Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Waiting Periods for Abortion
Jason Lindo & Mayra Pineda-Torres
NBER Working Paper, September 2019
Beyond a handful of studies examining early-adopting states in the early 1990s, little is known about the causal effects of mandatory waiting periods for abortion. In this study we evaluate the effects of a Tennessee law enacted in 2015 that requires women to make an additional trip to abortion providers for state-directed counseling at least 48 hours before they can obtain an abortion. Based on our difference-in-differences approach, estimates indicate that the introduction of the mandatory waiting period caused a 62-percent increase in the share of abortions obtained during the second trimester, completely closing the pre-existing gap between Tennessee and the comparison states. Our analysis examining overall abortion rates are suggestive of reductions caused by the waiting period but these estimates are imprecise. To put these estimates into context, our back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that Tennessee's MWP increased the monetary costs of obtaining an abortion by as much as $929 for some women.
Changes in Family Structure and Welfare Participation Since the 1960s: The Role of Legal Services
Andrew Goodman-Bacon & Jamein Cunningham
NBER Working Paper, September 2019
This paper evaluates the effects of the War on Poverty's Legal Services Program (LSP) on family structure and welfare participation. LSPs provided subsidized legal assistance to poor communities, focusing on divorce and welfare access. We use a difference-in-differences research design based on the rollout of the program to 251 counties from 1965 to 1975. We find temporary increases in divorce and persistent increases in welfare participation and nonmarital birth rates. Nonmarital births rose because marriage rates fell, not because birth rates rose. Expanded access to legal institutions thus contributed, directly and indirectly, to changes in family structure in the 1960s.
Longitudinal examination of pathways to peer problems in middle childhood: A siblings-reared-apart design
Leslie Leve et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming
To advance research from Dishion and others on associations between parenting and peer problems across childhood, we used a sample of 177 sibling pairs reared apart since birth (because of adoption of one of the siblings) to examine associations between parental hostility and children's peer problems when children were ages 7 and 9.5 years (n = 329 children). We extended conventional cross-lagged parent-peer models by incorporating child inhibitory control as an additional predictor and examining genetic contributions via birth mother psychopathology. Path models indicated a cross-lagged association from parental hostility to later peer problems. When child inhibitory control was included, birth mother internalizing symptoms were associated with poorer child inhibitory control, which was associated with more parental hostility and peer problems. The cross-lagged paths from parental hostility to peer problems were no longer significant in the full model. Multigroup analyses revealed that the path from birth mother internalizing symptoms to child inhibitory control was significantly higher for birth parent-reared children, indicating the possible contribution of passive gene-environment correlation to this association. Exploratory analyses suggested that each child's unique rearing context contributed to his or her inhibitory control and peer behavior. Implications for the development of evidence-based interventions are discussed.