Small Change

Small Change: The Economics of Child Support

Andrea H. Beller
John W. Graham
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 364
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  • Book Info
    Small Change
    Book Description:

    During the 1980s, the issue of child support emerged on the national agenda. Federal and state governments in the United States focused on the private obligations of parents to support their children, strengthening existing child support laws and establishing new ones. In this book, Andrea H. Beller and John W. Graham discuss what went right and what went wrong with child support payments during this period, investigating the socioeconomic and legal factors that determined child support awards and receipts, documenting why few gains were made in child support overall during the 1980s, and offering policy recommendations for the future.Analyzing Census Bureau data on child support awards and receipts beginning in 1979, Beller and Graham find that thereweresome minor improvements in the system and that these were due to changes in the legal and social environment surrounding child support. However, say the authors, many problems persist: the real value of child support awards and receipts has declined sharply, and black and never-married mothers, despite making some gains, continue to fare worse in the process than do non-black and previously married mothers. The authors evaluate the effectiveness of new federally mandated child support enforcement techniques and guidelines by focusing on how such laws worked in states that had them prior to the federal mandate. They also look for the first time at the indirect consequences of child support, showing how it affects mothers' decisions about work, welfare, and remarriage and their children's decisions about continuing their education.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16157-1
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Joseph I. Lieberman

    “In every child who is born,” wrote James Agee, “the potentiality of the human race is born again; and in him,” as indeed in “each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life.” The abandonment of that responsibility, as represented in a parent’s obligation to give his or her child financial support, is what this book is all about. The failure of absent parents, mainly fathers, to pay child support is a national scandal, one that has huge consequences for taxpayers, governments, mothers, and most important, children.

    Child support has officially been on the national agenda since 1975 when the...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    The problems women face in collecting child support are not new, but widespread public awareness about them has burgeoned only recently. Between 1960 and 1980 rising rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births swelled the population of father-absent families and jeopardized the economic well-being of millions of American mothers and their children. The number of single-parent, female-headed families nearly doubled and by 1980 they accounted for roughly half of all poor persons.¹ One factor contributing to the economic plight of many of these families was that too often the fathers of these children—in most cases still alive but living elsewhere—...

  8. 2 Aggregate Differentials and Trends in Child Support Payments
    (pp. 16-54)

    Child support in the United States has been characterized as a national disgrace.¹ Indeed, many women unexpectedly find themselves to be the sole support of children their husbands or their unmarried lovers presumably wanted as well. According to both law and religious tradition, men and women who have children thereby acquire the moral if not legal responsibility for their support.² But as recent statistics make painfully clear, when the parental union breaks up or children are born out of wedlock, fathers too often neglect that responsibility.

    Collecting child support has proved difficult for many women as they confront formidable challenges...

  9. 3 An Economic Model of Child Support
    (pp. 55-81)

    Like Tolstoy’s unhappy family, parents who live apart from each other confront some challenges in providing for their children’s well-being that most two-parent families never do. For example, couples who divorce or have a child out of wedlock need to decide who will retain primary physical custody of the child(ren) and how often the other parent will be permitted to visit. Perhaps most important, they must decide to what extent the noncustodial parent will be required to share in the children’s ongoing financial support. Increasingly, many single parents in the United States have opted for child support, which may be...

  10. 4 Child Support Awards: Determinants, Differentials, and Trends
    (pp. 82-124)

    The first steps toward receiving child support payments from an absent parent are to obtain an award and negotiate an adequate amount of support. As we have seen, as of April 1986, only about 60 percent of mothers with children from an absent father had taken the first step successfully, and among mothers due payments in 1985, the average amount due was only $2,500. In this chapter we shift our focus from aggregate to individual analyses of these outcomes to provide answers to some of the questions posed at the end of chapter 2.

    As in chapter 2, we study...

  11. 5 Child Support Receipts: Determinants, Differentials, and Trends
    (pp. 125-160)

    Child support awards are about promises made; child support receipts are about promises kept and promises broken. As we saw in chapter 2, only about half of all mothers due child support receive the full amount owed them in a given year, and at least one-fourth fail to receive anything. In this chapter we analyze the determinants of and differentials and trends in child support payments received by mothers with an award.

    We study two different measures of receipts: first, the receipt rate—that is, the proportion of women due child support who receive any, and second, the amount received...

  12. 6 The Legal Environment
    (pp. 161-210)

    Child support awards are made and payments collected within an elaborate system of state and federal laws and regulations. These laws have been designed mainly to assist custodial parents in obtaining the support for their children that is their legal right. The entire bulwark of laws surrounding child support increasingly has been strengthened as awareness of the poverty of children living in single-parent families and its public consequences has grown.

    Up to this point, in analyzing the determinants of child support outcomes, we have left the legal environment as part of the unobserved residual. Now we seek to characterize it...

  13. 7 The Economic Consequences of Child Support Payments
    (pp. 211-247)

    The economics of child support is not only the study of support; it is also about children. As such, the primary focus of this chapter differs sharply from previous ones. Up to this point we have attempted to explain how socioeconomic factors and the legal environment affect awards and receipts, why support outcomes differ so markedly by race and marital status, and what factors are responsible for observed changes over time in these outcomes. By contrast, in this chapter we take child support payments as a given and focus on the consequences of these payments (or lack thereof) for the...

  14. 8 A Policy Agenda for Child Support in the 1990s
    (pp. 248-262)

    Child support deserves the attention it may finally be starting to receive.¹ Pursuant to the Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984 and the Family Support Act of 1988, mechanisms are now in place to address the persistent widespread lack of awards, the low value of awards, and the extensive problem of nonpayment. As we have seen, progress throughout the 1980s in increasing the incidence of awards or the receipt of payments was limited, and therealvalue of awards and receipts fell because dollars awarded failed to keep up with rising prices. Whether more progress will be made during the...

  15. Appendixes
    (pp. 263-278)
  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 279-280)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 281-322)
  18. References
    (pp. 323-332)
  19. Index
    (pp. 333-338)