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Ellman is co-recipient of Nuffield Foundation grant

Professor Ira Ellman, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
July 20, 2011

Professor Ira Mark Ellman, a Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar at the College of Law, is one of three co-investigators awarded a research and innovation grant from a British charitable trust to study child support in the United Kingdom. He and his collaborators, Caroline Bryson of Bryson Purdon Social Research of London, and Stephen McKay, Professor of Social Research at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Social Studies, were awarded the three-year grant for £198,674 ($320,700) from the London-based Nuffield Foundation.

Their project, “Child maintenance: How much does the British public think the government should require non-resident parents to pay?,” will replicate in England the empirical work in family law that Ellman has conducted in the United States. The grant will make it possible for the investigators to interview several thousand residents of the United Kingdom.

Current government proposals in Great Britain would extend recent policy shifts that reduce the state’s role in setting the amount of child support one parent pays the other after the parents separate, as well as in enforcing the payments. This study will examine whether these changes align with the values of the British public. It  will not only ask whether the public believes government should require fathers to pay child maintenance to mothers, it will also provide the first detailed examination of how much maintenance the public believes it should require as parental incomes and family configurations change.

The English project will use methods developed by Ellman and his American colleagues, Professors Sanford Braver of the ASU Department of Psychology and Rob MacCoun of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, for their American studies.

The award letter from the Nuffield Foundation observed that the Trustees “rarely fund public attitudes research, but in this case, there was a clear reason for doing so, and Trustees were agreed about the elegance of the (project’s) underlying design.” The study’s findings will be published at about the time the effects of new child support policies are apparent and debate about the state’s role in child support has begun. The data it provides will be an important in that public policy debate.

The mission of the Nuffield Foundation is to improve social well-being by funding research and innovation in education and social policy. For more information about the Foundation, visit

Ellman spent the fall of 2010 in the United Kingdom as a Visiting Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. During that time he presented his portions of his American research at an all-day seminar for academics and policymakers held at the Nuffield Foundation in London and co-sponsored by the University of Cambridge. Ellman also an affiliate faculty member in the ASU Department of Psychology and in the Center for Child and Youth Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.