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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, November 9, 2009

Nearly Half of Parents Get Full Amount of Child Support, Census Bureau Reports

     About half (46.8 percent) of parents owed child support in 2007 received the full amount, while nearly one-third (29.5 percent) received only a portion of the total due and about one-quarter (23.7 percent) received none of the child support they were owed, according to a new national report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

     Of the $34.1 billion total child support owed, 62.7 percent was reported as received.

     The report, Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, [PDF] focuses on the child support income that custodial parents reported receiving from noncustodial parents living elsewhere, and other types of support, such as health insurance and noncash assistance.

     These data were collected in April 2008 as part of a special survey conducted jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement.

     "These figures show the importance of child support as income to families, especially those in poverty," said Carmen R. Nazario, assistant secretary for children and families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Our primary interest is making sure that children get the financial and medical support they need."

     Among custodial parents, 24.6 percent had incomes below poverty, about twice as high as the overall poverty rate for the total population (12.5 percent). Among those who reported receiving child support, 18.2 percent were living in poverty.

     On average, custodial parents received $3,350 annually, or about $280 per month, from the parents who owed support. Among custodial parents living below poverty who received support, child support represented 47.9 percent of their average income.

     An estimated 13.7 million parents had custody of 21.8 million children under 21, while the other parent lived somewhere else. More than one-quarter (26.3 percent) of all children under 21 lived with only one parent.

     Mothers accounted for the majority of custodial parents (82.6 percent), while 17.4 percent were fathers. One-third (34.2 percent) of custodial mothers had never been married, compared with 20.9 percent of custodial fathers who had never been married.

     Custodial parents participating in the federal government's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children) fell to 4.3 percent in 2007, down from 22.0 percent in 1993.

     Among white, non-Hispanic children in families, 22.4 percent lived with a custodial parent. The proportion of black children in families with a custodial parent was 48.2 percent. Among children of other races, including American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Asians and Pacific Islanders, 16.1 percent lived in a custodial-parent family. Approximately one-quarter (25.4 percent) of Hispanic children lived with a custodial parent.

     Other findings:

  • The age of custodial mothers has increased over the past 14 years. In 1994, 25.4 percent were 40 years or older. In 2008, that proportion had grown to 39.1 percent. Meanwhile, the proportion of custodial mothers younger than 30 decreased from 30.9 percent in 1994 to 25.8 percent in 2008.
  • The education level of custodial mothers increased over the past 14 years. In 1994, 22.2 percent of custodial mothers had less than a high school education. In 2008, the proportion of custodial mothers who had not graduated from high school had decreased to 15.5 percent.
  • Half (50.2 percent) of custodial mothers were white, non-Hispanic; 27.8 percent were black; and 18.0 percent were Hispanic. Custodial fathers were more likely to be white, non-Hispanic (71.6 percent), while 11.4 percent were black, and 12.1 percent were Hispanic. The difference in the percentages of custodial fathers who were black or Hispanic was not statistically significant.
  • A majority (81.7 percent) of the 6.4 million custodial parents due child support payments in 2007 had arrangements for joint child custody or visitation privileges with the noncustodial parent.
  • The average individual 2007 income for the 1.5 million custodial parents who received no child support payments was $29,300. The average individual 2007 income for the 4.9 million custodial parents who received at least some of the support they were due was $34,100.
  • Of the 7.4 million custodial parents who had child support awards or agreements in 2007, 56.6 percent of their agreements specified who was to provide health insurance for their children. In 44.5 percent of these, the absent parent provided the health insurance coverage.
  • At least one type of noncash support, such as gifts or coverage of expenses, was received by 57.6 percent of all custodial parents on behalf of their children. Custodial parents with a child support agreement or award were more likely than those without awards to receive noncash support (61.5 percent and 52.9 percent, respectively).
The estimates in this report are from the 1994 through 2008 April biennial supplements to the Current Population Survey and are subject to sampling and nonsampling error.
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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | | Last Revised: September 09, 2014