Contact: Robert Bernstein
Public Information Office
In 2009, 41.2 percent of custodial parents received the full amount of child support owed them, down from 46.8 percent in 2007, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The proportion of these parents who were owed child support payments and who received any amount at all — either full or partial — declined from 76.3 percent to 70.8 percent over the period.
All in all, $35.1 billion in child support was owed in 2009 and 61 percent of that total was received.
The report, Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009 [PDF], focuses on the child support income that the nation's 13.7 million custodial parents reported receiving from noncustodial parents living elsewhere and other types of support, such as health insurance and noncash assistance. These custodial parents had custody of 22.0 million children under age 21 while the other parent lived somewhere else. Most custodial parents (82.2 percent) were mothers.
The data come from the Child Support Supplement to the April 2010 Current Population Survey. This supplement is sponsored, in part, by the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Child support income is especially important to families in poverty, and the report shows that increasingly, custodial parents find themselves below the poverty level,” said report author Timothy Grall, a survey statistician in the Census Bureau's Program Participation and Income Transfers Branch.
Indeed, 28.3 percent of all custodial parents had incomes below poverty in 2009, up from 23.4 percent in 2001. Furthermore, they were about twice as likely as the total population to be poor (14.3 percent). Child support represented 62.6 percent of the average income for custodial parents below poverty who received full support, compared with 20.8 percent for all custodial parents.
Roughly half (50.6 percent or 6.9 million) of custodial parents had a court order or some type of agreement to receive financial support from the noncustodial parent. The majority (90.9 percent) of these parents with agreements were reported as formal legal agreements, while 9.1 percent were informal agreements or understandings.
This report is one of several related to children and families that the Census Bureau either has released recently or will release soon, including America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2011; Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First-Time Mothers: 1961-2008; Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2010; and Comparing Program Participation of TANF and non-TANF Families Before and During a Time of Recession.