University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Focus & Focus+ 35(1), July 2019
Designing more effective child support policies

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. 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. The first article in this issue summarizes the implementation analysis, and the second article highlights key findings of the impact and benefit-cost analyses. The CSPED evaluation effort also provided an opportunity to learn more about an understudied population of interest to researchers and policymakers. The third article in this issue describes a study that used CSPED data to determine how many fathers who are behind in their child support obligation have multiple family responsibilities, and whether fathers with multiple responsibilities provide different amounts of financial support, have different amounts of contact, or report different relationships with children from their most recent relationship compared to older relationships.

This issue features an electronic supplement, Focus+, which includes links to additional readings and videos related to the articles in the issue. This resource may be particularly useful in the classroom.