University of Wisconsin–Madison
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The Role of Formal Child Support in Children’s Academic Achievement

The link between family economic well-being and school performance is well-documented, with persistent gaps between children from higher and lower income households. Likewise, children from single parent households fair more poorly. Finding ways to counter persistent inequities among children from different backgrounds is a high priority for schools, in Wisconsin and nationwide. Due to its relevance as an income source, child support could be an important factor explaining the academic outcomes of children living in single parent families. This report examines the role of formal child support on the academic achievement of children, as measured by children’s eighth grade standardized test scores, and whether this relationship varies by economic status.

The report finds that higher amounts of formal support received are positively associated with eighth-grade reading and math test scores. However, low levels of child support, particularly those below the median, are not significantly linked with children’s test scores. The findings also indicate that formal child support is more important for low-income children’s test scores than for those of their economically advantaged peers. These findings add to other evidence on the potential benefits of formal support contributions for children’s outcomes in the United States.


Child Development & Well-Being, Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, Children, Economic Support, Education & Training, Family Income, Financial Security, K-12 Education, Orders & Payments, WI Administrative Data Core


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