Panel Paper: Reducing Complexity to Improve Adherence: Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Child Support Payments

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 8:50 AM
Santa Ana (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Peter Baird1, Leigh Reardon1, Daniel Silverman2, Dan Cullinan1 and Drew McDermott1, (1)MDRC, (2)Arizona State University
The Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency (FCCSEA) is responsible for the establishment and enforcement of child support orders to enhance the economic security and health insurance protection for the children and families of Franklin County, Ohio. The BIAS team has collaborated with FCCSEA to explore ways to use principles of behavioral economics to increase the amount of child support payments being made by obligors, as well as the number of obligors making payments that are more regular. FCCSEA collects approximately two-thirds of the current support payments and arrears due, leaving millions of dollars in outstanding collections owed to families and to the state. Furthermore, 60 percent of obligors are classified as “sporadic payers” by FCCSEA, meaning that in the last year they have paid less than 75 percent of their current child support obligation. Some sporadic payers make regular payments, but these payments are less than their ordered amount, while other sporadic payers make very irregular payments of varying amounts. In addition, more than a third of sporadic payers (a fifth of all obligors) are non-payers, which means they have not made any payments within the last year. FCCSEA and the state of Ohio are interested in exploring behavioral solutions to increase both the number of obligors making child support payments in a timely manner, as well as the total dollar amount collected.

This presentation will discuss the “behavioral maps” of the programs, which illustrate the detailed processes and hypothesized behavioral bottlenecks identified by the project team, along with the behavioral principles that were applied in an effort to improve outcomes. It also describes the behavioral interventions designed to increase child support payments made by obligors in the state and the early findings from the random assignment evaluation.