Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1999 and 2001. Data Source and Methodology


The source for this analysis is the data file matching the March 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS) and the April 2002 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 2002 covers the status of families in calendar year 2001, and is the most recent major national child support survey for which data are available. Correspondingly, the CPS-CSS match file from March/April 2000 covering the status of families in calendar year 1999 was used to construct the tables included in the report for 1999.

This analysis is a follow up to earlier reports published in May 1999 and May 2002 that used the CPS/CSS match file to look at the circumstances of families receiving IV-D services in 1995 and 1997. (See Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1995 and Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1997).  Although the methodology used to determine the current findings was the same as that used in previous reports, comparison across years must be done with care as changes were made to the survey and to the sample size and design during the period from 1995 through 2001. For example, a blip in the data that does not appear in subsequent years may be the result of a change in the wording or placement of a question or a change in variable responses between sets of years may need to meet different thresholds to be considered statistically significant because of sample size variation.

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 as are 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.