Supervised devolution: The case of child-support enforcement

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Supervised devolution in the area of child-support enforcement has produced a tenuous but politically popular sharing of power between the federal government and the states for more than two decades. In this paradigm, policy has proceeded simultaneously along two developmental tracks. Along the first track, the federal government has pushed states toward reform by establishing the legal framework for the program. Along the second track, the federal government also has granted the states freedom to experiment with a variety of new policies, including those that target an extremely important group: low-income fathers. This freedom, however, is not without its limits. The federal government actively supervises the states' performance through a combination of financial incentives, penalties, and funding for demonstration projects. When the states have innovated in a particularly noteworthy direction, the federal government has followed through with appropriate rewards. When they have faltered, the states have faced negative repercussions. Future challenges to this delicate balance of power include protesting interstate cases, adapting to a changing clientele base, and resolving outstanding cost-sharing issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-116
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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