Household economics requires a thoughtful approach and detailed understanding of the administrative, economic, and social factors in situations involving child costs. The Brattle Group has decades of experience in evaluating household economics models and data. We are accustomed to working with the literature and intricacies within this branch of economics, and have expertise in distinguishing between the direct and indirect costs of raising children. Our teams have applied this expertise to many policy issues, including child support payments and state guidelines principles and formulas.

Our experts are proficient in applying family economics concepts and household economic models in policy settings. Brattle has reviewed and advised on existing state guidelines to ensure that financial recommendations are applied appropriately. We have worked with the Massachusetts Trial Court and Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Task Force to help design the Commonwealth’s child support guidelines formula and the interactive worksheet used to inform amounts in agreements between payors and recipients. As part of Brattle’s expanding pro bono efforts, we have applied our expertise in this area to several pro bono issues.

The Child Costs practice combines rigorous internal analyses and state-of-the-art research by leading academics and industry practitioners in the field. The practice is led by Dr. Mark Sarro, a Principal in Brattle’s Boston and New York offices. Dr. Sarro was an independent economist to the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Task Forces, was a member of the 2008 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Task Force, and has served as an expert in other states and individual cases involving household economics issues.

Areas of Expertise

  • Conceptual Approaches to Measuring Child Costs

    There is a wide array of theoretical models and economic research on how best to estimate child costs, including annual government surveys, income equivalence methods, and marginal cost measures. These approaches draw on key distinctions between actual monetary costs and broader economic cost concepts. Our Child Costs practice is experienced with the alternate cost measures and the methods used to measure them. We have advised policymakers on the relative strengths and shortcomings of the various approaches. Our team has also contributed to academic and industry literature on measuring child costs.

  • Economic Estimation of Child Costs

    Many of the costs of raising children are indirect, non-observable costs shared by the adults and children in a household. As these costs cannot be directly measured, they must be estimated – controlling for key differences across households. Brattle’s Child Costs practice team is skilled in measuring indirect costs by applying statistical and econometric analysis to detailed data on household spending. We develop empirical evidence on the magnitude of child costs and how these costs vary by household income, family size, and other characteristics.

  • Quadrennial Review of State Child Support Guidelines

    Federal law requires each state to review its child support guidelines at least once every four years to ensure that applying these guidelines results in appropriate child support amounts. States must consider the current and available data on the costs of raising children and apply these measures if the current guidelines do not fulfill the legal requirement. Our experts have advised states in evaluating their current guidelines, considering the impacts of making revisions, and implementing changes in practical terms.

  • Development of Child Support Guidelines Formulas

    As a matter of economics, child support guidelines should yield an appropriate level of financial support for a child from both parents in an efficient and equitable proportion. A well-designed formula is flexible and translates principles into practice. Developing these formulas requires consideration of the relevant economic factors that lead to different levels of spending on children, while remaining understandable and administratively feasible. The Child Costs practice has advised on the development of state child support guidelines formulas, with a focus on balancing economic accuracy with relative flexibility and simplicity.

Additional Resources


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