Child Support: Interaction between Private and Public Transfers

64 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2001 Last revised: 21 Oct 2010

See all articles by Robert I. Lerman

Robert I. Lerman

The Urban Institute; American University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Elaine Sorensen

The Urban Institute

Date Written: April 2001

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

Lerman, Robert I. and Sorensen, Elaine, Child Support: Interaction between Private and Public Transfers (April 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8199. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=265294

Robert I. Lerman (Contact Author)

The Urban Institute ( email )

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

American University

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20816-8044
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Elaine Sorensen

The Urban Institute ( email )

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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