Medicaid Expansions Help Increase Child Support Payments, School of Public Policy Researcher Finds

Lindsey Bullinger

Posted September 15, 2020

By Michael Pearson

State Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act help boost child support payments by improving the financial well-being of non-custodial parents, according to a new study by a Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy researcher. 

The increased access to the medical program for low-income people provided enough financial flexibility for non-custodial parents to increase overdue child support payments by 8.5%, according to the study by Assistant Professor Lindsey Bullinger. She found evidence that the expansions also helped increase current child-support payments, but by a relatively smaller amount. 

“These results show how social programs beyond traditional child support enforcement can help improve the financial well-being of custodial parents and their children,” Bullinger said.

“These results show how social programs beyond traditional child support enforcement can help improve the financial well-being of custodial parents and their children,” Bullinger said.

The study — the first to examine the relationship between Medicaid expansions under the ACA and child support payments — used state-level child support data from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, as well as Census to examine the impact of Medicaid expansions on child care payments.

Bullinger constructed a model that would allow her to examine whether expanding Medicaid had an impact on child support payments while controlling for factors such as race and ethnicity, employment status, and education.

She found that the likelihood of receiving child support payments increased in states that expanded Medicaid compared to those that did not. Overdue payments increased by 8.5%, while the amount paid on time went up by about 2%.

Bullinger’s paper, “Child Support and the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansions,” was published July 31 in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. The article is available at https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.22238.

The paper is the latest work by Bullinger to examine the impact of public policy on family health and well-being.

She previously has written on innovative ways to reduce child maltreatment, the impact of adult opioid addiction on children, the effect of paid family leave on infant and parental health, among other topics.

She currently is working on understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic violence and child abuse and neglect.

The School of Public Policy is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

Contact For More Information

Michael Pearson
michael.pearson@iac.gatech.edu