Studies on Child Support

The School of Social Work's major researchers on child support are Betty Kramer, Maria Cancian, Daniel Meyer, Anna Haley-Lock, and Katherine Magnuson, focusing on topics such as maternal education and welfare policies, low income workers, and early childhood education. See current studies in progress below.


Child Support Demonstration Project

(P.I.s Maria Cancian and Daniel Meyer): Under Wisconsin Works (W-2), the state's welfare reform program that began in September 1997, families entitled to child support generally retain all of the amount paid on their behalf. Wisconsin's experiment with "passing through" all child support to resident-parent families has been, and remains, unique among the states and now is available to all eligible W-2 recipients. The Wisconsin experience offered an opportunity to evaluate the potential advantages and disadvantages of this new approach to child support, and to increase our knowledge concerning the way the child support system is working for low-income families


Maternal Education and Welfare Policies:  Although much of the research on family SES and welfare reform focuses on changes in employment and family income, welfare policies also have the potential of changing disadvantaged mothers’ educational participation.  The “work-first” approach that most states have adopted as a part of welfare reform suggests that perhaps low-income mothers’ ability to pursue additional education has been restricted. Research on this topic is sparse, and states’ policies toward allowing basic and post-secondary education to count toward welfare work requirements are diverse. Professor Katherine Magnuson is currently investigating whether changes in states’ welfare policies about work requirements and education are linked to changes in patterns of single mothers’ participation in basic and post-secondary educational activities. These analyses will provide a rigorous examination of how welfare reform policies may influence a mother’s ability to pursue additional schooling.


Low Income WorkersProfessor Anna Haley-Lock is currently studying workers in chain restaurants in Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver.  She sampled branches of the same chain so that each firm’s corporate strategy is relatively fixed; this enables her to explore the effects of different state (or country) policies as well as different contexts (urban, suburban, rural).  Professor Haley-Lock finds significant differences in employer practices across chains and across Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver.  An especially interesting finding is that American restaurant workers are likely to experience notable differences in job conditions dependent on state (policy) and ownership (business strategy) factors, while for their peers in Canada differences across firms are minimal, rendering these same factors of little consequence. 


Early Childhood EducationProfessor Katherine Magnuson is investigating how interventions for children can buffer the harmful effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on child outcomes.  She is particularly interested in how policies aimed at increasing early education enrollment will affect disparities in school readiness, and her work considers three factors: patterns of early education enrollment across socioeconomic groups; the effects of early education on children’s school readiness across socioeconomic groups; and the effects of public support for early education and child care programs on children’s enrollment in early education. Professor Magnuson’s research has provided some of the most influential and strongest evidence suggesting that pre-kindergarten programs and/or high quality early elementary education can improve academic outcomes for economically disadvantaged children.  Professor Magnuson has also found that the longer-term effects of early childhood experience partly depend on classroom experiences during at least the first years of school.  She has submitted two collaborative grants to look further at the enduring effects of early childhood education using data from the National Head Start Evaluation.


Last edited by portier on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | Printer Friendly Version