Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients Carmen Solomon-Fears Specialist in Social Policy November 17, 2009 The House Ways and Means Committee is making available this version of this Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, with the cover date shown above, for inclusion in its 2011 Green Book website. CRS works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to Committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. Congressional Research Service RS22499 CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients Summary The national Census Bureau data show that in 2007, 13.7 million parents had custody of children under age 21 while the other parent lived elsewhere, and the aggregate amount of child support received was $21.4 billion. In 2007, 84% of custodial parents were mothers. Of all custodial parents, 54% were white, 25% were black, 17% were Hispanic, 19% were married, 35% were divorced, 32% were never married, 15% did not have a high school diploma, 17% had at least a bachelor’s degree, 54% worked full-time year-round, 25% had family income below poverty, and 31% received some type of public assistance. In 2007, only 3.0 million (40%) of the 7.4 million custodial parents with child support orders actually received the full amount of child support that was owed to them. The average yearly child support payment received by custodial parents with payments was $4,379 for mothers and $4,510 for fathers. These full or partial payments represented 14% of the custodial mothers’ total yearly income and 10% of the custodial fathers’. Compared to 1993 Census data, less child support was received by custodial parents in 2007 ($22.0 billion in 1993 versus $21.4 billion in 2007). However, a higher percentage of those owed child support actually received all that they were due (36.9% in 1993 versus 46.8% in 2007). Congressional Research Service Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients Contents Introduction ................................................................................................................................1 Child Support Awarded and Received....................................................................................2 Demographic and Economic Characteristics of Custodial Parents Who Were Awarded or Who Received Child Support Payments in 2007.............................................................4 Tables Table 1. Child Support Award and Receipt, 1993-2007 ................................................................2 Table 2. Demographic Characteristics of Custodial Parents by Child Support Award and Receipt Status, 2007.................................................................................................................4 Congressional Research Service Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients Introduction The United States Census Bureau periodically collects national survey information on child support. By interviewing a random sample of single-parent families, the Census Bureau is able to generate an array of data that is useful in assessing the performance of noncustodial parents in paying their child support. Although the Census Bureau has been collecting child support information in a special Child Support Supplement to the April Current Population Survey (CPS) biennially since 1978, the supplement survey has changed significantly over the years. According to the Census Bureau, the most recent data, from 2007,1 is comparable only back to 1993. During the early years of the survey, information was collected only from custodial mothers. Beginning with the 1991 data, information was also collected from custodial fathers. This report presents unsegmented data with respect to custodial mothers and fathers (i.e., custodial parents data). The survey population includes all persons who have their own children under age 21 living with them, while the other parent lives outside the household. The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program was enacted in 1975 as a federal-state program (Title IV-D of the Social Security Act) to help strengthen families by securing financial support for children from their noncustodial parent on a consistent and continuing basis, and by helping some families to remain self-sufficient and off public assistance by providing the requisite CSE services. The CSE program is administered by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and funded by general revenues. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands operate CSE programs and are entitled to federal matching funds. The CSE program provides seven major services on behalf of children: (1) parent location, (2) paternity establishment, (3) establishment of child support orders, (4) review and modification of child support orders, (5) collection of child support payments, (6) distribution of child support payments, and (7) establishment and enforcement of medical child support. The CSE program is estimated to handle at least 50% of all child support cases; the remaining cases are handled by private attorneys, collection agencies, or through mutual agreements between the parents. In FY2007, the CSE program collected $24.9 billion in child support payments (from noncustodial parents) and served 15.8 million child support cases. The national Census Bureau data show that the aggregate amount of child support received in 2007 was $21.4 billion,2 and that 13.7 million parents had custody of children under age 21 while the other parent lived elsewhere. 3 1 U.S. Census Bureau, Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007. Current Population Reports, P60-237, by Timothy S. Grall, November 2009, http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p60-237.pdf. To view detailed tables, see http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/childsupport/chldsu07.pdf. 2 It is not surprising that the amount of child support received based on Census bureau data is less the amount of child support collected based on state CSE data because custodial parents responding to the Census survey are often unaware of child support received by the state on their behalf if they are recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In other words, the amount of child support received by TANF parents is probably underreported because many states retain some or all of the child support collected on behalf of such families. 3 Note that the OCSE defines a CSE “case” as a noncustodial parent (mother, father, or putative/alleged father) who is now or eventually may be obligated under law for the support of a child or children receiving services under the CSE program. If the noncustodial parent owes support for two children by different women, that would be considered two cases; if both children have the same mother, that would be considered one case. Thus, the CSE program caseload may be larger than the national number of custodial parents potentially eligible for child support payments. Congressional Research Service 1 Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients In 2007, 84% of custodial parents were mothers. Of all custodial parents, 54% were white, 25% were black, 17% were Hispanic, 19% were married, 35% were divorced, 32% were never married, 15% did not have a high school diploma, 17% had at least a bachelor’s degree, 54% worked full-time year-round, 25% had family income below poverty, and 31% received some type of public assistance. Child Support Awarded and Received Table 1 summarizes several child support indicators from biennial survey data for selected years from 1993 through 2007. The table shows that the likelihood of having a child support award, being legally entitled to a child support payment, and actually receiving at least one child support payment decreased over the 15-year period from 1993 through 2007. In contrast, the percentage of noncustodial parents (owed child support) who received the full amount of the child support that they were owed increased by 27%, from 37% in 1993 to 47% in 2007. Table 1. Child Support Award and Receipt, 1993-2007 1993 Percent Change (1993-2007) 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 13,690 13,715 13,949 13,529 13,383 13,951 13,605 13,743 0.4 Custodial parents awarded child support (thousands) 7,800 7,967 7,876 7,945 7,916 8,376 7,802 7,428 -4.8 Percent awarded child support 57.0 58.1 56.5 58.7 59.1 60.0 57.3 54.0 -5.3 Custodial parents due/owed child support (numbers in thousands) 6,688 6,958 7,018 6,791 6,924 7,256 6,809 6,375 -4.7 Percent of those owed who received any payment 75.8 75.7 75.3 73.7 73.9 76.5 77.2 76.3 0.7 Percent of those owed who received full payment 36.9 42.3 46.2 45.1 44.7 45.3 46.9 46.8 26.8 Average child support due $5,060 $5,494 $5,343 $5,917 $5,907 $5,754 $5,931 5,350 5.7 Average child support received $3,294 $3,620 $3,560 $3,473 $3,701 $3,945 $3,869 3,354 1.8 All custodial parents (numbers in thousands) Congressional Research Service 2 Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 Percent Change (1993-2007) Aggregate Child Support Payments (in billions of dollars) Child support due $33.8 $38.2 $37.5 $40.2 $40.9 $41.7 $40.4 34.1 0.9 Child support received $22.0 $25.1 $25.0 $23.6 $25.6 $28.6 $26.3 21.4 -2.7 Child support deficit $11.7 $13.1 $12.5 $16.6 $15.2 $13.1 $14.0 12.7 8.5 65.1 65.7 66.7 58.7 62.6 68.6 65.1 62.8 -3.5 Percent of amount due actually received Source: Table prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, April 1994-2008. All child support income amounts were adjusted to reflect 2007 dollars using the CPI-U-RS. Custodial parents include all persons living with their own children who are under age 21 while the other parent lives somewhere else. Note: The difference between the number of custodial parents who were awarded child support and those who were due or owed child support is composed of persons who were no longer owed child support because their child was or children were too old, the noncustodial parent had died, the family lived together for part of the year before the survey interview, or some other reason. (To clarify, in 2007, 7.4 million custodial parents were awarded child support, but only 6.4 million were due (or owed) child support. The 1.0 million-person difference was composed of persons who were no longer due child support because of the reasons listed above.) In 2007, 54% of the 13.7 million custodial parents (with children under age 21) were awarded child support.4 Of those who were actually due child support payments (6.4 million), a little more than 76% of them received at least one payment, and 47% received all that they were owed. In 2007, only 3.0 million (22%) of the 13.7 million custodial parents eligible for child support actually received the full amount of child support that was owed to them. In 2007, the average child support payment amounted to about $3,354,5 about 2% higher than the average child support payment in 1993 ($3,294). In 2007, about 63% of the $34 billion in aggregate child support due was actually paid. In 1993, 65% of the $34 billion (adjusted for inflation, in 2007 dollars) in child support due was paid. During the 15-year period 1993 to 2007, after adjusting for inflation, aggregate child support due fluctuated from a low of $33.8 billion in 1993 to a high of $41.7 billion in 2003. But, over the entire period, aggregate child support due increased less than 1%, total child support received decreased by about 3%, and the amount left unpaid increased almost 9% (see Table 1). 4 Conversely, the reader should note that many custodial parents do not receive child support. This includes the 46% of custodial parents who were not awarded child support and 11% of custodial parents who did not receive any child support payments even though they had been awarded child support. In 2007, this number amounted to 7.8 million custodial parents. Some of the reasons given as to why there was not a legal child support obligation included the following: they did not feel the need to make it legal (35%); the other parent provided what he or she could (35%); the other parent could not afford to pay (32%); they did not want the other parent to pay (26%); they did not want to have contact with the other parent (19%); they could not locate the other parent (19%); the child stayed with the other parent part of the time (18%); and paternity was not legally established (9%). 5 This amount reflects total child support payments received divided by the number of parents who were owed/due payments ($21,400,000,000/6,375,000—total different because of rounding). Table 2 shows an average child support payment of $4,395 for custodial parents who actually received at least one child support payment in 2007 ($21,400,000,000/4,864,000—total different because of rounding). Congressional Research Service 3 Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients Demographic and Economic Characteristics of Custodial Parents Who Were Awarded or Who Received Child Support Payments in 2007 While sex, race, marital status, and education are significant factors in predicting whether a custodial parent will be issued a child support order, award rates tend to be significantly lower than receipt rates. For example, although female custodial parents were 1.4 times as likely to be awarded child support in 2007 as their male counterparts, among parents who were owed/due child support, both had at least a 70% chance of actually receiving child support payments. (See Table 2.) Moreover, in 2007, less than one-half of black custodial parents were awarded child support compared with three-fifths of white custodial parents. Even so, 72% of black custodial parents who were owed/due child support actually received child support payments, and 78% of white custodial parents who were owed child support actually received child support payments in 2007. Similarly, while only 44% of never-married parents were awarded child support in 2007, 74% of never-married parents who were owed child support actually received child support payments in 2007. Also, about 43% of custodial parents without a high school diploma were awarded child support, while 70% of custodial parents without a high school diploma who were owed child support actually received child support. Table 2. Demographic Characteristics of Custodial Parents by Child Support Award and Receipt Status, 2007 (numbers in thousands) Total All custodial parents % Awarded Child Support Total Due Child Support Custodial Parents Who Received at Least Some Child Support in 2007 % of Those Due Child Support Average Child Support ($) Average Income ($) 13,743 54.0 6,375 76.3 4,395 34,068 2,387 40.4 825 74.1 4,510 46,574 11,356 56.9 5,551 76.6 4,379 32,271 White (nonHispanic) 7,409 60.6 3,924 78.3 4,869 35,338 Black 3,431 45.6 1,276 71.6 3,050 33,726 Hispanic 2,334 45.1 911 72.9 4,488 28,193 Married 2,643 60.7 1,417 79.7 4,867 32,852 Divorced 4,790 62.8 2,640 75.7 4,964 41,601 Separated 1,712 46.6 633 79.3 4,318 26,559 Never married 4,380 43.5 1,587 73.5 3,001 25,183 Sex Male Female Race and Ethnicity Marital Status Congressional Research Service 4 Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients Total % Awarded Child Support Total Due Child Support Custodial Parents Who Received at Least Some Child Support in 2007 % of Those Due Child Support Average Child Support ($) Average Income ($) Educational Attainment No high school diploma 2,104 42.7 716 70.0 2,927 16,371 High school graduate 4,776 51.9 2,080 76.3 3,756 27,795 Less than 4 years of college 3,206 58.7 1,672 75.2 4,310 33,527 Bachelor’s degree or more 2,279 61.2 1,253 80.2 6,078 52,933 Economic Characteristics Family income below 2007 poverty level 3,375 46.8 1,278 69.3 3,393 8,849 Worked full-time, year-round 7,368 56.4 3,638 76.7 4,613 45,415 Received public assistance 4,323 47.6 1,732 71.2 3,095 18,094 Source: Table prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, April 2008. This pattern also held for the economic factors listed in Table 2—in that once a child support obligation was awarded, the probability of actually receiving payments rose significantly for all categories of custodial parents. In 2007, 47% of custodial parents with incomes below the poverty level were awarded child support, and 69% of those owed/due payments actually received child support payments. Table 2 also shows that 56% of custodial parents who worked full-time yearround were awarded child support, while 77% of those owed received child support payments. Similarly, 48% of custodial parents who received public assistance were awarded child support, while 71% of those who were owed child support payments actually received child support payments.6 Of the categories of custodial parents presented in Table 2, custodial parents who were divorced followed by custodial parents who had at least a bachelor’s degree were the categories of parents most likely to be awarded child support. In 2007, 62.8% of divorced custodial parents and 61.2% of custodial parents with at least a bachelor’s degree were awarded child support. The table also shows that custodial parents with at least a bachelor’s degree who were owed/due child support were the category of parents most likely to receive child support payments in 2007. In 2007, 80.2% of custodial parents with at least a bachelor’s degree who were owed payments actually received child support payments. 6 Public assistance program participation includes receiving at least one of the following: Medicaid, food stamps, public housing or rent subsidy, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or general assistance. Congressional Research Service 5 Child Support: An Overview of Census Bureau Data on Recipients In 2007, the average yearly child support payment received by custodial parents with payments was $4,395; $4,379 for mothers and $4,510 for fathers. These full or partial payments represented 13% of the custodial parent’s yearly income; 14% of the custodial mothers’ total yearly income, and 10% of the custodial fathers’. In 2007, for custodial parents with income below the poverty level, child support payments for those who received them made up 38% of their yearly income. In 2007, child support payments made up 18% of the yearly income of custodial parents without a high school diploma who were owed child support and who actually received full or partial payments. In 2007, child support represented 15% of the income of the 3.0 million custodial parents who received all of the child support that they were owed. 7 The Census Bureau data also includes information on health insurance. In 2007, about 57% of the 7.4 million custodial parents with child support awards had awards that included health insurance. Nearly half (44.5%) of these health insurance provisos specified that the noncustodial parent was to provide the health insurance coverage. Not surprisingly, the data show that custodial parents who are relatively better off generally get a higher amount of child support than custodial parents who are financially worse off. In 2007, custodial parents who had at least a bachelor’s degree, custodial fathers, and custodial parents who worked full-time year-round received substantially more child support than other groups of custodial parents. 7 See Table 6 at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/childsupport/chldsu07.pdf (p. 17 of 49). Congressional Research Service 6