Out-of-wedlock childbearing is more common in the U.S. than in other countries and becoming more so. A growing share of such non-marital births identify the father, which can create a legal entitlement to child support. Relatively little is known about individual determinants of the decision to establish paternity, in part because of data limitations. In this paper, we evaluate all birth records in Michigan from 1993 to 2006, which have been merged to the paternity registry. In 2006, 30,231 Michigan children, almost one quarter of all Michigan births, were born to unmarried mothers and had paternity acknowledged. We find that births with paternity acknowledged have worse outcomes along various health and socio-economic dimensions relative to births to married parents, but better outcomes relative to births to unmarried parents without paternity acknowledgement. Furthermore, unmarried men who father sons are significantly more likely to acknowledge paternity than fathers of daughters.
Almond, D., & Rossin-Slater, M. (2013). Paternity Acknowledgment in 2 Million Birth Records from Michigan. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0070042