Men's Rights Myth: Women Trick Men Into Fatherhood So They Can Collect Child Support

In the comments to another thread, “Ed” – whose views are typical of many Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), although I don’t know if Ed himself identifies as an MRA – writes:

…Women have more incentives to become pregnant than a men do. [...] There are … the financial benefits that child support laws now provide. I would hate to believe it is common but I assure you that it is abused.

It’s true that some women have “tricked” men into fatherhood and child support – for example, the 1997 case of State of Louisiana v. Frisard, in which a woman gave oral sex to a man wearing a condom, and then secretly used the sperm in the condom to get pregnant. (The courts decided that Mr. Frisard was liable for child support, a result I find appalling). (For more information about Frisard and some similar cases, see this article).

But even acknowledging that such cases happen, that still doesn’t support the idea that child support payments significantly motivate women to “trick” men into involuntary fatherhood. In the Frisard case, it appears the woman was motivated by a desire for motherhood, and so would probably have acted the same way even if no child support laws exist.

Do women seek pregnancy in order to get the financial benefits of child support, as David suggests?

And who has the most incentive to prevent pregnancy, women or men?

I’d say women do. Women, after all, face the risks and physical burdens of pregnancy, and (if they wind up collecting child support) face not only the financial expense but the enormous workload of raising a child – a workload that will make much more difficult, and possibly entirely derail, any other plans the woman had for her life. The workload, unlike the expense, is not split with another adult. On the other hand, for those women who want to be mothers, that could be an incentive in favor of getting pregnant.

Next to all that, the benefit of receiving child support is so minor that I wouldn’t expect it to have a significant effect on women’s incentives.

Many MRAs – and Ed, if I’ve understood him correctly – believe that child support laws give women a strong incentive to get pregnant and thus “trap” men into financially supporting them. Furthermore, many MRAs seem to believe that there is very little men can do to prevent pregnancy (hence the frequent claim made by MRAs supporting “choice for men” that all reproductive decisions are made by women).

This is a conflict, between what many MRAs believe and what many feminists believe. Is there any way we can settle this conflict empirically?

I believe there is.

Not all states have the same child support laws. In some states, the child support laws are relatively weak; noncustodial parents don’t pay much, and can relatively easily get away with defaulting on child support payments – or can depend on never being identified as the father at all. Other states have higher child support awards, laws that aggressively establish paternity, and collection techniques that make defaulting unlikely (such as garnishing child support from paychecks).

If the MRAs are correct, then states with strong child support laws will have higher rates of single motherhood, due to more women – tempted by the prospect of well-enforced child support awards – choosing to trick men into getting them pregnant.

If I’m correct, however, then states with weak child support laws will have higher rates of single motherhood, because while women’s incentives aren’t changed much by child support laws, a significant number of men are less motivated to avoid pregnancy if they think they can get off the hook.

So what do studies comparing how weak and strong child support laws effect single motherhood find? It’s men, not women, who have their incentives changed by child support laws. The stronger child support laws are, the lower the rate of single motherhood.

Robert Plotnick, of the University of Washington, published a study in 2005 which included a brief review of the literature.

Five studies are particularly relevant to the argument that child support policy is likely to have empirically significant effects on nonmarital childbearing. Sonenstein, Pleck and Ku (1994) find that a substantial proportion of adolescent males are aware of paternity establishment and may modify their sexual behavior and contraceptive use accordingly, especially if their peers are doing so. Case’s (1998) analysis of state data reports that, net of economic and demographic conditions, states that adopted presumptive guidelines for setting child support awards or allowed establishment of paternity up to age 18 had lower out-of-wedlock birth rates. Garfinkel et al. (2003) also analyzes state level data and find that effective child support enforcement deters nonmarital births. The effect is robust across all models and specifications.

Huang (2002) and Plotnick et al. (2004) use micro-data to examine the effect of child support enforcement on nonmarital childbearing. Both use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to analyze the likelihood that a woman’s first birth is premarital. Focusing on the teenage years, Plotnick et al. (2004) finds that young women living in states with higher rates of paternity establishment are less likely to become unwed teenage mothers. Because of the nature of the NLSY and the focus on teenage behavior, the study examines behavior during 1979-1984. Huang (2002) examines 20 years of data and different indicators of support enforcement. He reports similar relationships when women are age 20 or older but, unlike Plotnick et al., not when they are teenagers.

Plotnick’s 2005 study (which is described, and available for download, here) replicated the earlier studies’ findings.

What does this mean?

It could mean, as I believe, that women already have such strong incentives to avoid pregnancy, that child support awards (which are, typically, not all that generous) don’t significantly alter the equation for most women.

However, it is also possible that Ed is correct, and that child support laws do strongly increase women’s incentive to get pregnant. However, this is only possible if we assume that men’s incentives to avoid pregnancy are even more strongly increased – so that even though women are trying harder to entrapt men into paying child support, men are nonetheless successful in preventing pregnancy, despite women’s increased efforts. So the MRA belief that women are motivated by child support payments into trapping men, ironically can only be rescued by giving up the MRA belief that men are not able to prevent pregnancy from happening.

The empirical evidence is clear: the net effect of child support laws isn’t that women get pregnant more often to collect on child support. Rather, the stronger child support laws are, the more men work at avoiding pregnancy.

This entry posted in Anti-feminists and their pals, Choice for Men. Bookmark the permalink. 

233 Responses to Men's Rights Myth: Women Trick Men Into Fatherhood So They Can Collect Child Support

  1. 201
    Ampersand says:

    Well, that was certainly an unpleasant exchange.

  2. 202
    Charles S says:

    Clarence,

    Thanks, I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t misreading that.

  3. 203
    Schala says:

    it sounds like the MRAs never had the talk with their dads where they’re told “Be a man, son, don’t shirk your responsibilities. Step up.”

    Yes, let’s shame men for not following the macho script.

    I mean man-up is as anti-feminist as it gets, even if it’s about “taking responsibility”.

    In the past this involved taking responsibility for choices not his, too. “Be a man about it”, was a way to say “You pay for it, no one else has to”.

  4. 204
    Robert says:

    “Man up” is anti-egalitarian and anti-feminist in that it is exclusionary; it makes a tacit assumption that real responsibility is vested in the masculine, so that an appeal to masculinity is by identity an appeal to adulthood.

    However, the pro-adulthood sentiment behind “man up”, degenderized, is not anti-feminist at all. Adults have different moral priorities and processes than do children; feminism is in large part an attempt to open the world of bona fide adulthood to the free and equal participation of women.

    “Adult up” is at bottom a call to make the shift to the adult priority list, not a derogation of part of adulthood as being just too frou-frou and girly.

  5. 205
    Danny says:

    “Man up” is anti-egalitarian and anti-feminist in that it is exclusionary; it makes a tacit assumption that real responsibility is vested in the masculine, so that an appeal to masculinity is by identity an appeal to adulthood.
    And anti-male as well. Often times it is used in an attempt to actually override real responsibility. Appealing to one’s masculinity in hopes of getting someone to do something they don’t want to do (or something they know they should not) is sometimes the exact opposite of responsibility or adulthood.

    Even the gender neutral “grow up” is used in such ways.

    Maybe its because I’m a guy but I can die a happy man never being told to “man up” or “grow up” or anything like that ever again.

  6. 206
    Schala says:

    Like Danny said, ‘man up’ has been abused to make something the responsibility of a man, regardless of his actual responsibility in whatever it is he’s “asked” (more like forced) to do.

    It’s not always used in the context of “adult-up”. And it’s also often used to deride men who do things considered un-adult, like playing videogames (this, despite the average gamer being 35-40, which is older than me and I was born into them) – even if this isn’t to make them do something else. It’s a way to shame them, simply.

  7. 207
    mythago says:

    Does Clarence believe that family-court rulings are specially exempt from appellate review? I see reported appellate cases dealing with paternity, child support, division of marital property, etc etc cross my email box all the time. Perhaps my state is special.

  8. 208
    Clarence says:

    Mythago:

    http://www.harrisfamilylaw.com/articles/appeals-family-law-case.cfm

    At least in Colorado:
    1. Temporary or interim orders (which can do great harm in terms of finances and positioning in a family law case) are not usually appealable. While “temporary” is often 90 days or even a week or less (depending on state) “interim” in some cases can stretch for a time period of years if there is any real delay
    2. Quoting: “An appeal is the opportunity for the appellate court to review the record of the trial court, and to determine whether the trial court made certain errors. Not all errors are reviewable by an appellate court. For example, an appellate court is not able to second-guess the trial court’s determination of whether someone was truthful, or the trial court’s determination that one party was more believable than the other. Instead, the appellate court may only review whether the trial court misinterpreted or misapplied the law. ”

    Even if the law in these kinds of cases wasn’t very broad and “discretionary” you’d face the unpleasant fact that if you uncovered evidence impugning the credibility of the other party it doesn’t matter and isn’t appealable. This kind of crap is often the same for death penalty cases : most “reviews” are procedural; evidence of innocence doesn’t get considered.
    3. The only time you get out of the “court of equity” system (puke) is if the Supreme Court of Colorado takes your case.

    Add to all this the fact that in some states these appointments are not elected, disciplinary tribunals are made up of colleagues and that sort of thing, and the potential for abuse is rampant.

  9. 209
    mythago says:

    Instead, the appellate court may only review whether the trial court misinterpreted or misapplied the law

    That is true of ALL appellate review, not just in family-law cases. The point of an appeal is not to re-try the case at the appellate level.

    I don’t see elected judges as being a solution. That just encourages judges to play to the voters, rather than follow the law.

  10. Pingback: Fighting Marriage Equality Is Not The Be-All And End-All Of Supporting Marriage | Alas, a Blog

  11. Pingback: Fighting Marriage Equality Is Not The Be-All And End-All Of Supporting Marriage « Family Scholars

  12. 210
    lol says:

    If they are not interested in Child support and that is not an incentive, why do they ask for it and go to the courtrooms to press for it?

    Why not allow men who don’t want to have children to avoid paying child support if they don’t want to have a family instead of forcing them? We only have condoms as the only way to avoid getting a woman pregnant and the system does fail a lot, specially if the loveable lady decides to pierce the piece of rubber in order to have kids anyway, we can ask and beg for the lady to get an abortion and she could, and is in her right, to tell us to fuck off and force us to pay child support for a kid we didn’t want in the first place.

    Where is the fairness on that?

  13. 211
    Elusis says:

    We only have condoms as the only way to avoid getting a woman pregnant

    Allow me to introduce you to a remarkable invention called masturbation.

  14. 212
    Penelope Ariel Ponyweather says:

    “Allow me to introduce you to a remarkable invention called masturbation.”

    ——

    Frankly, that comment sounds about as one-sided and sexist as Pat Robertson or other idiots telling women to “keep their legs closed” and then you don’t have a problem. Except that it’s a bit more sneering.

  15. 213
    Ampersand says:

    If you want to discuss the fact that women, but not men, can have abortions, I’d suggest discussing it on this thread, where it will be on-topic.

  16. 214
    Penelope Ariel Ponyweather says:

    “If you want to discuss the fact that women, but not men, can have abortions, …”

    No, I don’t want to discuss that issue. I wanted to point out the sexism of a statement here with the example of people who make comparable sexist statements.

  17. 215
    Elusis says:

    Masturbation doesn’t have to happen alone.

    Men have condoms as their sole birth control option for PIV intercourse. This is a true thing.

    PIV intercourse is not the only possibility if one wants to completely eliminate the chance of still getting someone pregnant while still having sexual contact with a partner.

  18. 216
    KellyK says:

    Men have condoms as their sole birth control option for PIV intercourse. This is a true thing.

    There is also sterilization and female barrier and/or spermicide that the man can watch or participate in putting in.

  19. 217
    Elusis says:

    Indeed.

  20. 218
    mythago says:

    Guys, you’re trying to reason with somebody who is convinced that women are happily sabotaging condoms left and right and who thinks child support is like buying your kid ice cream – nice if you want to, but not really mandatory.

  21. 219
    Elusis says:

    mythago, everyone knows that women don’t really like sex – we just do it for the fresh baby butter so we can sponge off a man we don’t actually like either for a giant paycheck of $400 a month and not work.

  22. 220
    KellyK says:

    Yeah, I think the conversation is more for us than him at this point. I have no hope of convincing someone who thinks poking holes in condoms is a serious concern (even disregarding the “evil woman out to trap you with a baby” trope, they come sealed in plastic–i think you might notice it being full of holes) of anything.

  23. 221
    stuart powell says:

    I was actually used to make a child, not for benefits but for her own self worth.
    I met a women from Scotland via txt message 9 years ago, i live in Essex.
    I was working night shift and a bit bored of having no real social life apart from a Sat night, when id meet up with old friends for a few beers.
    In the back of the Thursday Metro paper was a mag, i forget the name now but
    there was a make friends txt number that you could txt your number to and chat to women all around the country great or not in my case.
    I chatted with this women via txt for a week got on great, this went on for a couple of weeks. Now she said she was a good looking fairly slim girl lol 1st lie.
    About 3 weeks had past and i suggested meeting up for a laugh, hadnt seen Scotland so thought it would be a good chance to see some of it, see what this girl was really about. She suggested to come up the week after i had suggested for an obvious reason that wasnt obvious to me prior.
    So i went to Scotland for an August bank hol weekend. I eventually got to Glasgow central, she was in front of a statue clearly not slim or great looking in my eyes. I actually thought to myself to just walk on by shes a liar but stupidly thought im here now might as well make the most of the weekend, so introduced myself and went for a beer followed by chinese more beer and chatting .I went to sleep on the settee but got offered her bed with her, which i declined.
    Next day i said so whats the plan ? we going out ? show me some sights.
    She thought it better we stay in get stoned and drink more beer hmmmm
    ok so im just going to get smashed till i go home oh well.
    Second night i decline her bed with her.
    On the third night she offered me her bed again, i was wrecked but still kept me boxers and teashirt on. She wants a cuddle which after 4 hours turned in to a special cuddle lol god anything to go to sleep. Now i did not go to Scotland with the intention of sleeping with this women and did not have a hat.
    I told her this, she asked if i was clean which i was and still am, i said what about bambinos, to which she replied…. i cant have anymore children my doctor told me when i had my first i wouldnt be able to have any more.
    I went back to Essex and didnt really think to much about it until 2 weeks later to the day to tell me she was pregnant grrrrrrrrrrr
    I went back to Scotland a week later to talk to her about it.
    When i questioned her about it she slipped up straight away saying she was on the pill and it hadnt worked. I reminded her that she said she couldnt have children which then turned into a argument where she ended up admitting what she had done, apparently i was gullible and this was good enough lol.
    Her motive was to feather her own ego by having a baby so she would feel loved again, nothing to do with money or csa, just pure selfishness.

    The only good thing to come from this lying manipulative blackmailing women is my son who i would die for, just gutted hes in Scotland and im in essex 400miles apart. I do go to see him every other weekend.

  24. Pingback: The Key to a Great Society, Limiting the Freedom of Women « sidestinkappleeye

  25. 222
    linda says:

    My name is linda am 27years old i have a baby girl who is 4 an a half. i had a ectopic pregnancy in 2008 and lost my right fallopian tube. i’m trying to get pregnant but its not working naturally. when i am on my periods i feel sad of my life ,im really disoppointed. i have read so many things on how to get pregnant i did my excerse and i took my vitamins regulary but steel no good news until i saw some comments and testimonies on some ladies teststifying how ashra has helped them got their baby by casting a pregnancy spell for them ,i dicided to copy the email addres of this great spell caster and i sent him an email and told him everything and that i lost my right tube if it was steel posible he replied my mail with such words of hope and immediately i felt peace and hope within me ,i did all he asked me to do and i he bought some items which he used to perform the pregnancy spell and immediately he told me to make love to my husband anytime i want which i did , i just came from the doctor now and it is confirm that am 5weeks pregnant am so happy and i cant wait to carry my baby and breast milk my own child once again ,as i write this now i have tears of joy runin down my chick,if any one out there is passing true similar situation my advice is dont wait and suffer anymore contact ashra spell temple on email :[deleted by Amp]@gmail.com or his personal number +[deleted by Amp].
    i wish you luck

  26. 223
    Ben Lehman says:

    That is a truly amazing piece of spam.

  27. 224
    Elusis says:

    I hope her chick is OK. I don’t think they like being wet very much.

  28. 225
    Robert says:

    I think you mis-parsed that, Elusis. She’s referencing the BDSM conversation about degradation, and saying that she gets tears of joy when she puts down her lesbian GF.

  29. 226
    Jake Squid says:

    I have a question. Is it spam promoting the grifter or is it spam to harass some poor schmoe?

  30. 227
    Ampersand says:

    I’m not sure, but either way, it seemed like a good idea to delete the contact info.

  31. 228
    Robert says:

    Hey! I needed that contact info! I’m building a database of Internet spellcasters. Also, I want to get pregnant so I can breast milk.

  32. 229
    Solution says:

    Make abortion mandatory unless both DNA proven parents sign off on childbirth. $50k birth tax plus $50k refundable welfare bond to cover future welfare liabilities. If child makes it to 18 without sucking welfare teat the bond is refunded to the child. Refund reduced $2 for every $1 of welfare consumed.

    First abortion will be provided by state. Second abortion will also be free but will include sterilization.

    Child support will be set at flat rate of $1,000 / month paid by noncustodial parent.

  33. 230
    Jake Squid says:

    That’s a repulsive solution you’ve suggested, Solution. It manages to combine both misogyny and repression. I’m glad I won’t live to see that implemented here.