Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1997. Data Source and Methodology


The source for this analysis is the data file matching the March 1998 Current Population Survey (CPS) and the April 1998 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 1998 covers the status of families in calendar year 1997, and is the most recent major national child support survey for which data are available.

This analysis is a follow up to a May 1999 report that used the 1996 CPS/CSS match file to look at the circumstances of families receiving IV-D services in 1995 (see Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1995, However, due to revisions made to the 1998 file by the Census Bureau, the 1995 and 1997 data are not directly comparable.

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 cash benefits from the TANF program 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 to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). State OCSE 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. Since 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.