Methods: The overviews of country child support policies are based on a systematic literature review using SocINDEX, Heinonline, and Google Scholar covering all articles written in English since 2010 and using the key words “child support” and “child maintenance.” The level of orders and consequences of nonpayment are based on a vignette method and 14 countries. Vignettes included the characteristics of hypothetical families, and country experts provided data on typical outcomes for these families. We compare responses through descriptive statistics and tabular analysis.
Results: There is substantial literature on child support policy in high-income countries, especially in Europe, but much less is known about middle- and low-income countries. Nonetheless, our preliminary analyses have identified policy information in at least 45 countries. The 14-country analysis shows substantial variation across countries in the amount due, with the U.S. and Estonia having the highest orders. In all countries, punishments can be applied to those not paying. Nine of the 14 countries have a guaranteed payment policy, with the government making up any amount not paid by the other parent, so that the custodial parent is not completely dependent on the other parent for these resources. The U.S. does not have this type of policy.
Conclusions and Implications: This paper provides insight into alternative policies that the U.S. could consider. We pay particular attention to how the U.S. could learn from the guaranteed child support schemes, given that that this has recently been proposed by the U.S. National Academies as part of their policy package to lessen child poverty.