Child Support Enforcement:

A Framework for Evaluating Costs, Benefits, and Effects

PEMD-91-6: Published: Mar 5, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional requirement, GAO provided information on a framework for evaluating the full costs and effects of child support enforcement.

GAO presented an evaluation framework and an inventory of indicators and possible measures of potential costs, benefits, and efforts of child support enforcement. GAO found that: (1) the framework permits the design of various complex analyses because it partitions cost, benefit, and effect indicators by program function and domain, which could then be aggregated across different dimensions; (2) the broadest use of the framework would be to answer questions about the overall cost-benefit or cost-effectiveness of child support enforcement at the federal or state level; (3) the entire framework and inventory serve as a guide for indicating the data elements needed above and beyond aggregate program costs and collections; (4) program officials noted that some important child support enforcement goals are not monetary, such as fulfillment of parents' moral and legal obligations; (5) policymakers should weigh the importance of monetary benefits, such as collection receipts, when making overall judgments about program operations; and (6) cost-benefit analysis could be used to inform program planning by identifying sources of large program costs or restrictions in yielding effects, which would assist in the strategic allocation of resources.

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