The Role of Child-Support Debt on the Development of Mental Health and Alcohol Abuse Problems Among Nonresident Fathers

Hyunjoon Um , Columbia University

Using the first five waves of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), this research examines whether nonresident fathers who owe child support arrears are at risk for the development of depression and alcohol abuse problems. To attenuate a potential omitted variable bias, I controlled for fathers’ previous mental health status by including a lagged dependent variable as a covariate. As a robustness check, I used an instrumental variable approach to correct for endogeneity and measurement error associated with mothers’ report of fathers’ child support arrears. The study provides strong evidence that fathers who owe arrears are more likely to report mental health problems than those who do not owe any arrears. The study also finds that fathers who receive more support from friends and families during childbirth were less likely to develop depression caused by child support arrears than those who receive less support.

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 Presented in Session 11. Health & Mortality 2