NARA MILANICH is an associate professor of history at Barnard College. Her scholarly interests include modern Latin America and the histories of family, gender, law, and social inequality. Her book, “The Birth of Uncertainty,” a social and political history of paternity testing, will be released by Harvard University Press in 2018.
Latin America has long been known for its low marriage rates and high rates of children born outside of marriage. Beginning in 2000, politicians across the region began promoting “responsible paternity,” sponsoring legislation to help women track down their children’s fathers and subsidizing DNA testing that could hold the men responsible for financial support. Nara Milanich, an associate professor of history at Barnard College, describes how these policies have been shaped not by the wishes of low-income mothers but by the political agendas of neoliberal states.