Child support policy in middle- and low-income countries: current approaches and policy dilemmas

Laura Cuesta, Mia Hakovirta, Mari Haapanen, Daniel Ray Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about government policies that regulate economic transfers between separated parents (child support) outside of high-income countries. This paper provides the first broad overview of child support policy and its outcomes in 37 middle- and low-income countries. Using a systematic literature review, we provide information on child support policies in these countries, considering institutional arrangements, procedures for determining how much child support is due and how obligations are enforced. Using descriptive statistics on individual-level data from the Luxembourg Income Study Database, we show that poverty rates are high among lone-mother families and that fewer than one-third of lone mothers receive child support. Among those who receive, however, amounts average over $3,600 US$/year, making child support an important income source for some. We discuss how current policies and their estimated outcomes are similar to (or differ from) the previous work that focused on high-income countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-83
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of International and Comparative Social Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 3 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • child maintenance
  • Child support
  • comparative policy
  • divorce
  • income transfers
  • lone parents
  • union dissolution


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