Can the Family Support Act Put Some Life Back into Deadbeat Dads?: An Analysis of Child-Support Guidelines, Award Rates, and Levels
Federal legislation mandates the use of child-support guidelines to improve adequacy and horizontal equity of child-support awards. Using state guideline formulas, and a sample of women drawn from the NLSY we compare the effects of guidelines on children born out of wedlock versus children whose parents divorced or separated. Our analyses indicate that guidelines increase the probability of child-support awards for children born out of wedlock. Guidelines also reduce variation in awards by eliminating outliers, not by equalizing awards across the entire distribution. Awards for high-income divorced or separated fathers fall substantially below the guideline amount.