Child Support

Child Support: 1994 and 1996 - Changes


In 1994, after significant research was conducted, the questionnaire for the April supplement to the CPS was converted from a paper to a computerized format. In that process, many changes to question wording and content occurred. (See discussion below.)

Data Collection Changes

In addition to the computerization of the instrument, the questionnaire changed from using "adult-based questions" to using "child-based questions." With the earlier parent-based questions, we asked the custodial parent to respond about his or her children collectively. With child-based questions, we first listed each of the respondent's children and asked questions about each child or group of children in regard to their absent parent. The new orientation of the questions identifies each child's award status.

Survey Scope

The survey scope remained as parents living with own children where the other parent is absent from the home. However, the screening of eligible never-married parents was refined to ensure inclusion of some parents who did not think they were eligible.

Content Changes

Key changes in content included: new child-based questions to identify children with absent parents, the addition of overdue child support (back support) in the amounts of child support due and received, revised terminology referring to types of child support agreements or awards, the addition of detailed questions about the amount of child support due, and new questions on pass-through payments (child support payments collected on behalf of welfare recipients by a state enforcement office, a portion of which is passed through to recipients).(1)

Processing Changes

The approach used for processing was similar to that used before. However, it was expanded to accommodate the new child-based questions, and the more detailed questions on child support income due and received.

Historical Comparisons with Previous Child Support Supplements

Data from the April 1992 CPS Child Support Supplement and earlier years are not comparable to data collected in 1994 and beyond because of changes starting with the April 1994 CPS questionnaire (discussed above). In other words, the April 1994 starts a new series of child support data that is different from the April 1992 CPS (which underwent its own changes) and earlier.

It is impossible to determine how each change in the April 1994 CPS impacted the data uniquely. Adding back support to the child support income definition appears to be significant. Also, changing the questions for amounts of child support due and received appeared to have an impact. For a detailed discussion of changes to the April 1994 CPS, please contact the Income Statistics Branch at (301) 763-3243.

1. Also, the introduction to the supplement for married parents was changed in the April 1996 CPS.

Contact the Demographic Call Center Staff at 301-763-2422 or 1-866-758-1060 (toll free) or visit for further information on Child Support Data.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division
Last Revised: August 23, 2012