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Child Support: Interaction Between Private and Public Transfers

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  • Robert I. Lerman
  • Elaine Sorensen

Abstract

Child support is a private transfer that is integral to the means-tested public transfer system. Support payments generally lower the budget costs of welfare as well the incentives for parents to participate. The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program, which establishes and enforces support obligations, also affects the incentives of the non-custodial parent donors and ultimately the distribution of incomes. While not formally income-tested, CSE still targets low-income families because so many custodial families are poor. This paper reviews the history of the CSE program; the economic rationale for government's role; trends in support awards and payments; the importance of child support to low-income families; the capacity of non-custodial parents to pay child support; trends in costs, financing and effectiveness of the CSE program; the effects of child support on behavior; equity issues in child support; and proposals for reform. Despite efficiency gains in the CSE program, especially in establishing paternity, a shift in the composition of cases has offset these improvements, causing support payments per custodial mother to rise only modestly in real terms.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert I. Lerman & Elaine Sorensen, 2001. "Child Support: Interaction Between Private and Public Transfers," NBER Working Papers 8199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8199
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    Cited by:

    1. Chien-Chung Huang, 2001. "The Impact of Child Support Enforcement on Nonmarital and Marital Births: Does It Differ by Racial and Age Groups?," JCPR Working Papers 246, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    2. Huang, Chien-Chung & Han, Ke-Qing, 2012. "Child support enforcement in the United States: Has policy made a difference?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 622-627.
    3. Robert D. Plotnick & Irwin Garfinkel & Sara S. McLanahan & Inhoe Ku, 2007. "The impact of child support enforcement policy on nonmarital childbearing," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 79-98.
    4. Elaine Sorensen & Ariel Hill, 2004. "Single Mothers and Their Child-Support Receipt: How Well Is Child-Support Enforcement Doing?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    5. Christine Hauser, 2008. "Child Support Enforcement and Children's Consumption," 2008 Meeting Papers 630, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Huang, Chien-Chung & Edwards, Richard L., 2009. "The relationship between state efforts and child support performance," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 243-248, February.
    7. C. Huang & I. Garfinkel & J. Waldfogel, "undated". "Child Support and Welfare Caseloads," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1218-00, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents

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