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Can a redesigned child support system do better?

Changes in family structure have led to a substantial increase in single-parent households. The child support system is designed to ensure that noncustodial parents contribute financially to the upbringing of their children, but for many families it does not work well. As detailed in the introduction to this issue, the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration Program (CSPED) offered a new approach to child support, intended to make child support payments by unemployed noncustodial parents more consistent. CSPED was a rigorous, randomized controlled trial with three primary study components; an implementation analysis, an impact analysis, and a benefit-cost analysis. This article summarizes the key findings of the impact and benefit-cost analyses.


  • Satisfaction with the child support system improved substantially for noncustodial parents when a less punitive and more individualized approach was used.
  • Effects on other child support outcomes were modest.
  • CSPED also had some positive effects on earnings and parenting.
  • Costs outweighed benefits in the short-term, but in the longer term it is expected that benefits would outweigh costs.


Arrears & Related Policy, Child Support, CSPED, Employment, Enforcement, Family & Partnering, Labor Market, Parenting


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