CHARACTERISTICS OF FAMILIES USING TITLE IV-D SERVICES IN 1995
By Matthew Lyon
Child Support Eligible Population
Public Assistance Variables
List of Tables (The tables are all in
a Quattro Pro spreadsheet)
Table 1: The Population of CSE Eligible Families: 1995
Table 2: Receipt of Public Assistance of IV-D Families: 1995
Table 3A: Family Income Level & Receipt of Public Assistance of
CSE Eligible Families (Number): 1995
Table 3B: Family Income Level & Receipt of Public Assistance of
CSE Eligible Families (Percentage): 1995
Table 4A: Poverty Thresholds, by Family Size: 1995
Table 4B: Ratio of Family Income to Poverty Level & Receipt of
Public Assistance of CSE Eligible Families (Number): 1995
Table 4C: Ratio of Family Income to Poverty Level & Receipt of
Public Assistance of CSE Eligible Families (Percentage): 1995
Table 5: Gender of Custodial Parent & Receipt of Public Assistance
of CSE Eligible Families: 1995
Table 6: Marital Status of Custodial Parent & Receipt of Public
Assistance of CSE Eligible Families: 1995
Table 7: Residence of Non-Custodial Parent & Receipt of Public
Assistance of CSE Eligible Families: 1995
Table 8: Agreement/Receipt Status & Receipt of Public Assistance
of CSE Eligible Families: 1995
The purpose of this analysis is to identify the characteristics of the custodial
parent families using the services of the child support enforcement system
authorized under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. The analysis
uses Census data to describe this population by various family financial
characteristics, including both participation in welfare and other government
programs and income and poverty. It also provides information on
demographic characteristics such as gender and marital status of the custodial
parent and the residence of the noncustodial parent. Finally, it addresses
the question of whether the family has an child support agreement or has
received child support payments. The data cover the status of families
in calendar year 1995.
Participation in the IV-D system was determined by a number of variables
that are detailed below and in the technical appendix. Families in
the IV-D system are further broken down into three categories: families
receiving cash benefits under Title IV-A, families using other means-tested
non-cash public assistance programs, and families that reported no public
assistance usage during 1995.
The source for this analysis is the data file matching the March 1996 Current
Population Survey (CPS) and the April 1996 Child Support Supplement (CSS).
Every March, the Census Bureau administers an expanded version of the monthly
CPS that includes key demographic and income variables. Every other
April, with funding from the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE),
75 percent of the March CPS sample is given a supplemental survey that includes
questions on children with absent parents and the child support program.
The March and April data are then merged into one single file. The
CPS-CSS match file from March/April 1996 is the most recent major national
child support survey for which data are available. However, the data
should be considered preliminary as the Census Bureau has not yet released
the public use file for the data.
The population of interest for this analysis, custodial families that use
the IV-D system, was drawn from the identified population of child support
eligible parents using variables from both the March and April surveys.
These variables included: parents who reported that they had contacted
the child support program for help or had been contacted by the child support
program; parents who reported receiving their child support payment through
the child support or welfare agency, and; parents who said they did not know
the amount of child support due because the child support agency had filed
the paperwork. Parents who received Title IV-A cash benefits or were
enrolled in Medicaid were also considered to be in the IV-D program.
This assumption was made because of child support enforcement cooperation
requirements that are part of the regulations guiding those programs.
There is currently no way of comparing the numbers in this analysis to the
IV-D caseload data reported by the states, since state caseload reporting
requirements, are not based on counts of custodial parent families like the
estimates from the household-based sample of the CPS-CSS survey.
The technical appendix, found at the end of this document, includes a complete
explanation of each of the variables used to make up the various categories
in the analysis. Because many of the characteristics included in this
piece could not be captured by only one or two variables on the CPS-CSS match
file, a variety of assumptions needed to be made. These assumptions,
and the effects that they may have had on the findings, are also detailed
in the technical appendix.
There were 13,739,431 child support eligible families in the United States
in 1995. A child support eligible family is defined as a custodial
parent with an own child under age twenty-one living in the household whose
other parent is absent from the household. Only a portion of the child
support eligible population receives services through the IV-D program.
This analysis found that 8.7 million families, or 63 percent of the 13.7
million child support eligible parents, participated in the IV-D system.
Table 1 provides an overview of all of the family variables analyzed in this
report, shown for the entire child support eligible population. Beginning
with Table 2, all subsequent tables identify these characteristics within
the IV-D and non IV-D populations.
Data from the March survey was used to determine the participation of IV-D
parents and their families in a variety of public assistance programs.
Almost 3 million parents (34 percent) lived in families in which at least
one member received cash assistance through Title IV-A of the Social Security
Act in 1995 (Table 1). Medicaid receipt was reported by 58 percent
of IV-D families, and nearly 44 percent were enrolled in the Food Stamps
program. Lesser numbers reported receiving housing subsidies (in the
form of public housing or housing assistance) and family income from the
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
Participation in the four non-cash public assistance programs (Medicaid,
food stamps, housing subsidies, and SSI) were used to form the three categories
of families that are shown in each of the tables in this document:
families receiving IV-A, families receiving other public assistance (but
not IV-A), and families not receiving public assistance. Overall, fewer
than 3 million IV-D families were receiving IV-A, and slightly less were
receiving other public assistance. Among IV-D families, 36 percent
were not receiving any public assistance.
Significant variations in receipt of public assistance existed between the
IV-D and non IV-D populations (Table 2). Among those families in the
IV-D program, there was nearly an even split between those in the IV-A program,
those receiving other public assistance, and those receiving no public
assistance. However, an overwhelming majority (92 percent) of the more
than 5 million child support eligible families not in the IV-D program as
received no public assistance at all in 1995. This last statistic is
affected by the assumption that all families in which income was received
from IV-A or in which either the parent or child was covered by Medicaid
participated in the IV-D program.
Over 6 million (69 percent) of all IV-D families had a family income under
$30,000 in 1995 (Tables 3A and 3B). Families receiving IV-A or other
public assistance had the lowest reported incomes. Over 80 percent
of child support eligible families receiving income from IV-A, and 61 percent
of those reporting other public assistance, had incomes of $20,000 or
below. Conversely, less than one-quarter of IV-D families receiving
no public assistance had incomes below $20,000.
Families participating in the IV-D program generally had lower incomes than
non IV-D families. While the incomes of most IV-D families were grouped
in the $0-20,000 range, only 25 percent of non IV-D families fell into that
same income range. In both categories, families with no public assistance
had higher incomes than those reporting some sort of welfare. Tables
2A and 2B show the numbers and percentages of child support families in various
In addition to family income, the ratio of the family's income to the poverty
level is an important measure of economic well-being. Each year, the
Census Bureau estimates poverty thresholds that are adjusted for the size
of the family unit. In 1995, the weighted average poverty threshold
was $12,158 for a family of three and $15,569 for a family of four (Table
Over 3.5 million, or 41 percent of the IV-D families were below this threshold,
and over two-thirds had incomes that fell below 200 percent of the poverty
level (Tables 4B and 4C). A large majority (74 percent) of IV-D families
receiving cash assistance were in poverty, as were 42 percent of those families
receiving only other assistance. Families with no public assistance
were less poor, with 8 percent having incomes below poverty and about two-thirds
having incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty level. Nearly
two-thirds of non IV-D families had incomes above 200 percent of the poverty
level, while 32 percent of IV-D families fell into this category.
Gender of Custodial Parent
Most families in the IV-D system are headed by custodial mothers. There
were 7.8 million IV-D families headed by females in 1995, or 89 percent of
the population (Table 5). Nearly a million families headed by fathers
were in the IV-D caseload, making up more than 10 percent of IV-D
families. Slightly more than a million fathers were not receiving IV-D
services. These custodial fathers represented 23 percent of families
outside the IV-D system. Custodial fathers were better off than custodial
mothers; 50 percent of IV-D families headed by men were receiving no public
assistance, compared to 34 percent of female-headed IV-D families.
Marital Status of Custodial Parent
Never married parents made up a high percentage of the IV-D caseload in
1995. Among all custodial parents of IV-D families, 34 percent had
never been married, while 46 percent were divorced or separated, 17 percent
were currently married, and a small number had been widowed. By contrast,
only 13 percent of non IV-D parents had never been married (Table 6).
Of all families headed by a never married parent, 82 percent were participating
in the IV-D program, and about half of those families were receiving IV-A.
Of those families not receiving IV-D, 84 percent were headed by parents who
were divorced, separated, or currently married.
Residence of Noncustodial Parent
The CPS-CSS data indicate that parents did not live in the same state in
nearly 2.3 million IV-D families, comprising 26 percent of the IV-D caseload
(Table 7). The percentage of interstate cases was not substantially
different within the IV-D caseload than out of it (26 percent versus 24
percent). Within the IV-D caseload, custodial mothers receiving IV-A
or other public assistance were as likely as those not receiving public
assistance to report that the noncustodial parent lived in a different state.
Nearly two-thirds of all IV-D families had child support agreements, while
46 percent of families reported the receipt of some amount of child support
payment (Table 8). While families receiving no child support payments
made up a slight majority of both the IV-D and non IV-D populations, those
families participating in the IV-D program were more likely to at least have
a child support agreement. IV-D families receiving no public assistance
are more likely to have an both an agreement and receipt of payment (52 percent)
than IV-D families reporting receipt of welfare or other public
assistance. In both the IV-D and non IV-D populations, families with
no agreement and no receipt were more likely to receive some public assistance.
A variety of limitations exist in this study. One of the most crucial
lies in the definition of the IV-D population. Since there is no direct
question on the April CSS survey regarding receipt of IV-D services, this
number had to be estimated through the use of variables from both the March
and April surveys. Changing some of the assumptions used in constructing
the IV-D population could significantly affect its size and its interaction
with the various characteristics. For example, former IV-A families
who do not report contact with the IV-D program could be erroneously identified
as being outside the IV-D service population even if, based on their former
welfare status, they are still receiving services. The use of "family"
variables from the CPS, which include only the family and related subfamilies,
may also affect the data.
Another major limitation of this study is that the 1995 data used in the
analysis pre-dates the welfare reform legislation. As welfare reform
is having a major impact on the size and makeup of the IV-A population, it
could also affect the size of the child support eligible population, the
number of families that participated in the IV-D caseload, and many of the
other variables included in this analysis. However, the March/April
1996 data is the most recent survey data available with the necessary child
support information to make this analysis possible.
[All the tables are contained in a single Quattro Pro spreadsheet which may be downloaded and viewed by clicking on the Tables link.]