"Small Change" by Andrea H.              Beller

Small Change The Economics of Child Support Andrea H. Beller, John W. Graham

Publication date:
21 Feb 1996
Yale University Press
364 pages: 241 x 159mm


During the 1980s, the issue of child support emerged on the national agenda. Federal and state governments in the United States focused on the private obligations of parents to support their children, strengthening existing child support laws and establishing new ones. In this book, Andrea H. Beller and John W. Graham discuss what went right and what went wrong with child support payments during this period, investigating the socioeconomic and legal factors that determined child support awards and receipts, documenting why few gains were made in child support overall during the 1980s, and offering policy recommendations for the future.

Analyzing Census Bureau data on child support awards and receipts beginning in 1979, Beller and Graham find that there were some minor improvements in the system and that these were due to changes in the legal and social environment surrounding child support. However, say the authors, many problems persist: the real value of child support awards and receipts has declined sharply, and black and never-married mothers, despite making some gains, continue to fare worse in the process than do non-black and previously married mothers. The authors evaluate the effectiveness of new federally mandated child support enforcement techniques and guidelines by focusing on how such laws worked in states that had them prior to the federal mandate. They also look for the first time at the indirect consequences of child support, showing how it affects mothers' decisions about work, welfare, and remarriage and their children's decisions about continuing their education.

One of four runners up for the 1994 William J. Goode Book Award of the American Sociological Association Family Section   

"Child support reform has the potential to revolutionize gender relations, as well as to make children more economically secure. Beller and Graham's well-researched book shows us where we are and where we need to go in this field so vital to social policy."?Barbara R. Bergmann, American University


"The years of research by Andrea Beller and John Graham into the bottom line of child support?from the establishment of paternity to the awarding of child support to its collection?have yielded a bumper crop of facts that go a long way toward puncturing myths, settling debates, highlighting successes and failures, and furthering our search for better ways to make the system work. I have rarely seen so thorough and so well-documented an analysis of a public policy problem."?Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, from the foreword

"The book will be valuable for family scholars. . . . [It] is well-written, based on sound research, and makes a needed contribution to the economic approach to the study of the family."?Kathryn D. Rettig, Journal of Marriage and the Family


"Small Change is timely, impressively researched, well reasoned, and well written. . . . a book that will appeal to a wide audience."?Jay D. Teachmen, American Journal of Sociology


"For anyone interested in antipoverty policy or in raising child support payments to help end child poverty, this work is indispensable."?Steven Pressman, Journal of Economic Issues


"The theoretical framework is presented lucidly and identifies many of the major issues relevant to studying the economics of child support. . . . The recommendations are sensible and well conceived."?Philip K. Robins, Journal of Economic Literature

Andrea Beller is the recipient of the 1994 Family Economics and Resource Management Research Award of the American Home Economics Association, for significant contributions to individuals and families through exceptional research

"This important book is well organized, accessible, and interesting, and its analyses are careful and thoughtful. I enjoyed reading it."?Linda Waite, University of Chicago