Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 427–452 | Cite as

Child support wage withholding and father–child contact: parental bargaining and salience effects

  • Samara R. Gunter


Past research on child support finds that father–child contact increases as support payments increase. Enforcement policies such as wage withholding also may affect father–child contact even when the amount of support paid is not affected if they change bargaining power between parents or the salience of fathers’ child support obligations. I develop a model of the salience of child support obligations which predicts that introduction of automatic withholding will reduce contact between noncustodial parents and children independent of payment amount. I then examine whether paying child support via wage withholding affects fathers’ frequency of contact with their children and their provision of in-kind support using instrumental variables and bounded OLS techniques for selection on unobservables. Withholding appears to decrease father–child contact. Withholding effects do not occur when payments are made to government agencies or courts but are present when payments go directly to the mother, consistent with bargaining models. More frequent payment schedules are associated with more contact, consistent with salience effects.


Child support Father–child contact Payment method Salience Bargaining 

JEL Classification

D0 H7 I38 J1 



I am very grateful to Charlie Brown, Brian Cadena, Adam Cole, Josh Congdon-Hohman, Sandy Danziger, Taryn Dinkelman, Naomi Feldman, Ann Ferris, Ben Keys, Joel Slemrod, Jeff Smith, two anonymous referees, and many seminar participants for helpful comments and suggestions, and Tim Marshall at the Census for data assistance. All errors and omissions are my own. This research was supported in part by a University of Michigan Rackham One-Term Dissertation Fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11150_2016_9330_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsColby CollegeWatervilleUSA

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