Economics Department


Date of this Version



Journal of Labor Economics, 2020, vol. 38, no. 2, pp 611-652 & suppl.


© 2020 by The University of Chicago. Used by permission.


This paper studies the expansion of US 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.

Supplemental appendices attached below.