Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program. Characteristics of the NCP Sample Before Referral to SHARE

10/01/2003

As context for examination of employment, earnings, and child support outcomes, it is useful to understand the backgrounds of the NCPs referred to SHARE. A basic description of the pre-referral characteristics and experiences of NCPs can provide a backdrop for interpreting the responses of these individuals to the initiative.

Most NCPs were male, and they were older than age 25 when referred to SHARE. Based on the limited demographic data available, we can construct a rudimentary profile of the NCPs referred to SHARE. Most NCPs included in the study (88 percent) were male (see Appendix Table A.1).(14) Their average, as well as median, age at the time of referral toSHARE was 31 years. Fewer than one-quarter were younger than age 25 at referral, and there were few teenagers or people age 45 or older (five and six percent, respectively) (Figure III.1).

Figure III.1 Age Distribution of All NCPs Referred to SHARE.

Rates of participation in TANF were low. No more than seven percent of the NCPs in the study were receiving TANF in any of the four quarters before referral to SHARE (Table III.1).

This finding is not surprising, given that only needy children and their residential caretakers may receive TANF. Still, some NCPs in our sample may have been receiving TANF, for one of two reasons. First, our analysis of patterns of participation in SHARE revealed a number of NCPs who were never referred to a WtW provider because YCPA staff discovered at the contempt hearing that the noncustodial children were at that time living with them (see Chapter II). Some of these NCPs may by then have been receiving TANF for themselves and for these children, although earlier they had been under order to pay support to the other parent. Second, some NCPs may have been living with other children for whom they were receiving TANF. The majority of NCPs receiving TANF were male (21 of 25 receiving TANF four quarters before referral to SHARE, and 27 of 40 receiving TANF in the quarter immediately before referral).

 

Table III.1
Rates of Receipt of TANF and Food Stamps among All NCPs Referred to SHARE
(In Percentages)

Quarters Before Referral

TANF Food Stamps
Quarter 4 7.0 22.3
Quarter 3 5.6 22.5
Quarter 2 5.2 22.8
Quarter 1 4.4 22.1
TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Rates of participation in the Food Stamp Program (FSP) are higher than in TANF. Between one-fifth and one-quarter of the sample was receiving food stamps during each quarter before referral. The higher rates of participation in the FSP likely reflect the less stringent eligibility criteria of the FSP, both in terms of family structure and financial resources, as well as need among this relatively disadvantaged population.

Before referral to SHARE,the majority of NCPs were not employed, and average earnings were low. During the first three of the four quarters before referral to SHARE, only about one-third of all NCPs had any reported employment (Table III.2). During the quarter immediately before referral, the share with any employment was lower still, with only about one-quarter reporting employment. Moreover, it appears that nearly all those who were employed before referral worked in jobs that offered low wages or worked too few hours to earn a substantial living. Even four quarters before referral, when average earnings were highest, three-quarters of those working earned less than $2,500 in the quarter (Table A.4). Average earnings among all NCPs were lowest  a mere $320  during the quarter immediately preceding referral to SHARE (Table III.2). The low average earnings reflected primarily the low rates of employment among referred NCPs, which declined to only 25 percent in the quarter before referral to SHARE. Average quarterly earnings for those employed also declined, to $1,302. It is unclear, however, if the decline in average earnings reflects an actual decline among those who remained employed or if those who remained employed were lower earners throughout the period.

 

Table III.2
Employment and Earnings of All NCPs Before Referral to SHARE
Quarters Before Referral Percentage Employed Average Quarterly Earnings Among All NCPs (Dollars) Average Quarterly Earnings Among Those Employed (Dollars)
Quarter 4 36.6 $655.58 $1,791.92
Quarter 3 35.5 $599.48 $1,686.78
Quarter 2 30.3 $459.94 $1,517.28
Quarter 1 24.6 $319.91 $1,302.34

Few NCPs paid child support before referral to SHARE.  During each of the four quarters leading up to their referral to SHARE, no more than 18 percent of all NCPs paid any child support (Table III.3). The proportion of NCPs paying child support was lowest  13 percent  during the quarter immediately preceding referral to SHARE. Several circumstances help explain why some NCPs were referred to SHARE despite these reported payments. First, parents may have paid support during the balance of the calendar quarter in which they were referred. Second, there may have been a time lag between identification of a delinquent parent and referral to SHARE, during which that parent may have made a payment. Third, some payments may reflect intercepted Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refunds that would not qualify the NCPs as meeting their obligations.(15)

 

Table III.3
Child Support Payments of All NCPs Before Referral to SHARE
Quarters Before Referral Percentage Paying Average Amount Paid in Quarter Among All NCPs (Dollars) Average Amount Paid in Quarter Among Those Paying (Dollars)
Quarter 4 15.7 74.87 477.50
Quarter 3 17.8 71.69 403.41
Quarter 2 15.7 51.46 328.19
Quarter 1 13.2 37.77 285.25

Average child support collections were extremely low before referral to SHARE and only about half of the NCPs with employment paid any child support. During the fourth quarter before referral, DCS collected an average of only $75 from the NCPs referred to SHARE. This low average payment reflects the 84 percent of NCPs who made no payments (Table III.3). The average amount collected declined progressively throughout the year leading up to referral, reaching a low of $38 during the quarter immediately before referral. The reduction in average payments was greater than the reduction in the percent paying, perhaps indicating that those who continued to pay had smaller obligation amounts or paid less than was due.(16) Our data also suggest that the NCPs may have informally adjusted the amount of support they paid according to the relative burden that these payments represented. NCPs who paid any child support four quarters before referral paid an average of $478 (Table III.3). This amount represents about 27 percent of the average quarterly earnings for employed NCPs (Table III.2). The amount declined to a low of $285 during the quarter immediately preceding referral  about 22 percent of the average quarterly earnings of NCPs who were working.

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