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Associations Between Problematic Substance Use and Child Support Order Compliance

Substance use is often overlooked as a barrier to child support compliance. To address this gap, our study assesses the extent to which problematic substance use is associated with child support compliance. Our primary goal in this task is to assess whether there are differences in compliance rates among Medicaid-insured noncustodial parents (NCPs) with problematic substance use versus otherwise-similar Medicaid-insured NCPs with no documentation of problematic substance use.

Our primary data are drawn from the Wisconsin Administrative Data Core. We use the following data sources: Medicaid claims data (to examine health-related indicators of problematic substance use (PSU)); child support records from the Kids Information Data Systems (to examine characteristics of child support orders); and quarterly wages drawn from the state of Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance wage records. Our primary outcome of interest is child support compliance among Medicaid-insured NCPs with current active child or family support orders in 2020. Our primary explanatory measure is PSU. We used descriptive statistics to characterize the sample and to summarize differences in compliance rates among NCPs who have a history of PSU. We conducted binomial logistic regression analyses to explore the relationship between PSU and compliance.

We found statistically significant differences in mean compliances rates among NCPs with PSU compared to those without; NCPs with PSU had significantly lower mean compliance rates than those without PSU. We find statistically significant differences between NCPs with and without PSU on a variety of sample characteristics. When compared to NCPs without PSU, a higher proportion of those with PSU were female, between 30 and 49, and white or Native American. In terms of wages, NCPs with PSU were underrepresented in higher income categories. Although NCPs with PSU were over-represented in lower wage categories, the average annual amount of child support ordered in 2020 was comparable to those without PSU. Similar to the descriptive results, results from the binomial logistic regression models demonstrate that NCPs with PSU are significantly less likely to be in full compliance than NCPs without PSU. Across specifications, and even when controlling for potential confounding characteristics, we find that PSU is associated with lower likelihood of full compliance for Medicaid-insured NCPs with current child support orders in 2020.


Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, Health, Mental Health & Substance Abuse, WI Administrative Data Core


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