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The impact of changes in child support policy


This paper measures the impact of child support reforms on payments to divorced mothers and welfare participation rates among them. A Stackelberg model of divorced parents’ behavior is calibrated to data from Wisconsin, where child support payments increased from $2,175.35 to $3,431.77 and welfare participation rates decreased from 33.5% to 9% between 1981 and 1992. Results show that new guidelines accounted for 24.4% and improved enforcement for 74% of the increase in payments. Higher payments accounted for a 3.9-percentage-point decline, decreasing welfare benefits an 8.4-percentage-point decline, and the two combined a 15-percentage-point decline in the welfare participation rate.

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Correspondence to Urvi Neelakantan.

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Responsible editor: Deborah Cobb-Clark

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Neelakantan, U. The impact of changes in child support policy. J Popul Econ 22, 641–663 (2009).

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  • Child support
  • Welfare
  • Children

JEL Classification

  • J12
  • J13
  • I38