Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program. How Did Targeted NCPS Fare after Referral to SHARE?

10/01/2003

The ultimate goal of SHARE was to help NCPs meet their obligations to financially support their children. However, an intermediate goal of SHARE was to help NCPs increase their employment and earnings, as parents need income in order to meet their obligations, and the most likely source of steady income is a job. This section examines trends over time in the employment, earnings, and child support payments of NCPs referred to SHARE.

Employment rates and earnings increased after referral to SHARE. Employment rates among all NCPs referred toSHARE increased from their low of one-quarter during the quarter immediately preceding referral to one-third during the quarter of referral (Figure III.2).(17) In subsequent quarters, employment rates remained just above one-third. Similarly, average earnings increased 40 percent between the quarter immediately preceding referral and the quarter of referral (Table A.5).(18) However, average earnings continued to climb more substantially than the employment rate did (Figure III.3). In the fourth quarter after referral, average earnings were almost three times the average during the quarter immediately prior to referral, and almost one-and-a-half times the pre-referral high. The larger increases in average earnings across all NCPs referred to SHARE (relative to increases in employment) reflect higher average earnings for those NCPs who were employed (Table A.5). These gains could reflect increases in hourly wages, hours worked each week, or weeks worked in each quarter.

Figure III.2 Employment Rates over Time

igure III.3 Average Earnings over Time

After referral to SHARE, NCPs generally experienced more sustained spells of employment. About 16 percent of referred NCPs were employed during all four quarters after referral, compared with only 9 percent employed during all four quarters preceding referral (Table A.9). This clearly contributed to the increase in average earnings after referral to SHARE. Sustained employment is particularly important for low-income NCPs, as it likely increases their opportunities for wage progression and, thus, their ability to meet their financial obligations to their children. Sustained employment also increases the probability that a wage withholding order can be put into effect.

Child support payment rates increased markedly between the quarter of referral to SHARE and the quarter after referral. Among all NCPs referred to SHARE, child support payment rates nearly doubled between the quarter of referral to SHARE and the subsequent quarter (Figure III.4). Payment rates during all subsequent quarters ranged between 30 and 40 percent, substantially higher than they were before referral to SHARE. Even so, in each quarter after referral, the majority of referred NCPs failed to pay any child support.

Figure III.4 Rates of Child Support Payment over Time

Overall, average child support collections were substantially higher after referral to SHARE than before. During every quarter after referral to SHARE except the first one, average child support collections among all NCPs were more than $125 (Figure III.5). In contrast, average quarterly collections before referral to SHARE never rose above $75. Average collections increased in almost every quarter after referral; by the ninth post-referral quarter, they were at a high of $196. This trend reflects mainly increases in the number of NCPs paying support, which are noticeably larger than the increases in average payments across those NCPs paying support (Table A.7). Nine quarters after referral, 38 percent of all referred NCPs were paying child support  an increase of 143 percent relative to the prereferral high of 17.8 percent (in the third quarter before referral). In contrast, average payments across those NCPs paying support increased by only 28 percent over the same period. The increases in child support collections also reflect more sustained payments by NCPs who were paying support. Of the referred NCPs, 14 percent made child support payments in all four quarters after referral to SHARE, compared with only 3 percent paying in all four quarters prior to referral (Table A.9).

Figure III.5 Average Child Support Collections over Time

Outcomes in employment and earnings varied across groups that took different paths through the initiative. In all quarters after referral to SHARE, employment rates were lowest among NCPs who never appeared at contempt hearings, and highest among those who appeared but were not referred for WtW services (Figure III.6). Average earnings followed a similar pattern (Figure III.7). All of the differences in post-referral employment and average earnings between those who appeared at their hearings and those who did not appear are statistically significant (Table A.5). In general, the differences in employment between the NCPs referred for WtW services and those not referred for services are not significant, while the differences in their average earnings are significant (Table A.6).

Figure III.6 Employment Rates over Time, by Participation in SHARE

Source: Administrative data from state of Washington (as of March 2003).
NCP = noncustodial parent; Q0 = quarter of referral to SHARE; WtW = Welfare-to-Work.

Figure III.7 Average Earnings over Time, by Participation in SHARE

Source: Administrative data from state of Washington (as of March 2003).
NCP = noncustodial parent; Q0 = quarter of referral to SHARE; WtW = Welfare-to-Work.

Child support payment rates and average collections were lowest among those who never appeared at their contempt hearings. In almost every quarter after referral to SHARE, the payment rates and average collections among NCPs who never appeared at their contempt hearings were half or less than half of those among NCPs who did appear (Figure III.8), and the differences are significant (Table A.7). Payment rates among those who were referred for WtW services were higher than payment rates among those who appeared at their hearings but were not referred for services; however, these differences are not statistically significant (Table A.8). Although NCPs referred for WtW services paid slightly more often, average collections for this group were lower than for NCPs who appeared but were not referred for WtW services (Figure III.9). This may reflect the fact that, on average, NCPs who appeared for their hearings and were referred for WtW services earned significantly less in the quarters after referral than the NCPs who appeared but were not referred for WtW services. Hence, on average, they may have only been able to afford smaller amounts.

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