Can a Redesigned Child Support System Do Better?

IRP Focus, vol.35, no.1
Publisher: Madison, WI: Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jul 26, 2019
Authors
Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer, and Robert G. Wood

Key Findings:

  • Impact analysis:
    • The impact analysis allowed researchers to compare the outcomes of those randomly assigned to receive the additional CSPED services (the treatment group) and those not assigned to receive additional services (the control group).
    • The findings indicate that, although the program did not increase child support compliance, it did substantially improve how satisfied noncustodial parents were with child support services.
    • The program also increased the sense of responsibility noncustodial parents felt toward their children and led to a modest increase in parental earnings during the first year after program entry.
  • Benefit-cost analysis:
    • Costs outweighed benefits in the short term, but in the longer term it is expected that benefits will outweigh costs.

Many noncustodial parents, including a disproportionate share of those whose children live in poverty, have limited earnings and ability to pay child support. In 2012, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched CSPED to examine the effectiveness of child-support–led employment programs for noncustodial parents. The goal of CSPED was to improve the reliability of child support in order to improve children’s well-being and avoid public costs. Led by Mathematica and our partners at the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin, CSPED was a rigorous, randomized controlled trial with three primary study components: an implementation analysis, an impact analysis, and a benefit-cost analysis. This IRP brief summarizes the key findings of the impact and benefit-cost analyses.