How Much In-Kind Support Do Low-Income Nonresident Fathers Provide? A Mixed-Method Analysis

Jennifer B. Kane, Timothy J. Nelson, Kathryn Edin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Past child support research has largely focused on cash payments made through the courts (formal support) or given directly to the mother (informal support) almost to the exclusion of a third type: non-cash goods (in-kind support). Drawing on repeated, semistructured interviews with nearly 400 low-income noncustodial fathers, the authors found that in-kind support constitutes about one quarter of total support. Children in receipt of some in-kind support receive, on average, $60 per month worth of goods. Multilevel regression analyses demonstrated that children who are younger and have more hours of visitation as well as those whose father has a high school education and no current substance abuse problem receive in-kind support of greater value. Yet children whose fathers lack stable employment or are Black receive a greater proportion of their total support in kind. A subsequent qualitative analysis revealed that fathers' logic for providing in-kind support is primarily relational and not financial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-611
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Child support
  • Family policy-child-related
  • Low-income families
  • Noncustodial parents


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