urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Elaine Sorensen

Elaine Sorensen

Senior Fellow

"I am particularly interested in the role of government in the lives of separated families. It is estimated that at least half of all children will spend part of their childhood living apart from a parent and thus could be affected by how the government handles separated families. Historically, courts have been the primary vehicle to implement government policy in this area, but that is changing with the growing role of the child support program."

Sorensen's current research focuses on measuring the impact of child support on families, fathers’ ability to pay child support, and the effectiveness of programs designed to increase fathers’ ability and incentive to pay child support.

Her most recent work is on child support arrears, which has resulted in major changes in child support policy and practice nationwide. She found that most of the over $100 billion in unpaid back child support is largely uncollectible and is owed by parents with little or no reported earnings ability. She is currently examining New York’s Strengthening Families through Stronger Fathers Initiative, a two-pronged approach to enabling and encouraging low-income fathers to work and pay child support.

Sorensen also works part-time for the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, helping federal staff think through research and evaluation issues.

Areas of expertise

Child support, fatherhood, income support policies, family demographics

Selected Publications from Elaine Sorensen

  • Examining Child Support Arrears in California: The Collectibility Study
  • Assessing Child Support Arrears in Nine Large States and the Nation
  • Declining Employment among Young Black Less-Educated Men The Role of Incarceration and Child Support
  • Publications by topic:
    Child Support

    See all publications by Elaine Sorensen

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