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Interaction of Child Support and TANF: Evidence from Samples of Current and Former Welfare Recipients

Publication Date
May 31, 2004

By: Cynthia Miller, MDRC, Mary Farrell, The Lewin Group, Maria Cancian, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Daniel R. Meyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Prepared for: Jennifer Burnszynski and Linda Mellgren


Research Brief (in PDF format)

Research Summary (in PDF format)

Executive Summary (in PDF format)

Welfare and child support programs have long been intertwined. Given the common populations served and the role that child support payments play in self-sufficiency and cost recovery, understanding the interaction between child support and welfare is important. This report examines the interaction of child support and welfare receipt by analyzing samples of current and former welfare recipients from survey and administrative data. Key findings show that child support is a significant source of family income that can strengthen family self-sufficiency. Child support distribution policy makes a difference, and early state experiments with welfare time limits increased child support receipt. However, parents do not understand child support distribution rules and do not know when they have changed.


This report benefited from the input of many people. At ASPE, Jennifer Burnszynski and Linda Mellgren provided helpful comments on the analysis plan and drafts of the report. Staff at OCSE also provided comments on an earlier draft. Programming assistance was provided by Colleen Sommo at MDRC and Matthew Langley at The Lewin Group. Jenny Au at MDRC provided assistance with report production.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)