Performance Improvement 2001. The Potential of the Child Support Enforcement Programs to Avoid Costs to Public Programs: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature


The Child Support Enforcement Programs ensures that non-custodial parents provide appropriate financial support for their children through four major services: locating absent parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support and medical support obligations, and enforcing support orders. One of the goals of the program is to reduce government expenditures on means-tested public assistance programs by increasing the amount of child support paid to custodial households by non-custodial parents. This study synthesizes the theoretical and empirical literature on cost avoidance to build a comprehensive and coherent framework to evaluate the intricacies of child support cost avoidance. The main findings drawn from the literature are: several studies present estimates of cost avoidance, but differences in methodology, populations analyzed and assumptions by the authors make comparability and generalizations difficult to estimate; although realized cost avoidance is relatively modest under the current child support enforcement system, the potential for cost avoidance is unknown; evaluations of several demonstrations found that periodic review and updating of support orders for AFDC cases was effective in avoiding state and federal government costs, that is the overall cost of the process was less than the increase in dollars collected; the literature indicates that child support enforcement has, at most, a limited indirect effect on cost avoidance by changing the marital and childbearing behavior of custodial and noncustodial parents. The current research focuses on custodial parents and suggests that child support enforcement has a small deterrent effect on divorce and little or no deterrent on out-of-wedlock childbearing. The few published studies on the effect of child support on the labor force participation of custodial mothers find mixed results.

AGENCY SPONSOR: Office of Child Support Enforcement

FEDERAL CONTACT: Gaile Maller, 202-401-5368

PIC ID: 6842

PERFORMER: The Lewin Group, Fairfax, VA