Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 1998. Economic Security Risk Factor 8. Child SUPPORT

10/01/1998

Child support provides critical income to families with children and reduces the likelihood of dependence. These child support risk factors reflect the presence and magnitude of child support payments made by noncustodial parents for families receiving services from the Child Support Enforcement Program.

Figure ECON 8a. Total, Non-AFDC/TANF, and AFDC/TANF Title IV-D Child Support Collections, 1978 – 1997

Figure ECON 8a. Total, Non-AFDC/TANF, and AFDC/TANF Title IV-D Child Support Collections, 1978 – 1997

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1997 Data Report, 1998 (and earlier years), Washington, DC.


  • Total collections paid through the Child Support Enforcement system (Title IV-D of the Social Security Act) grew at an annual rate of growth of 14.4 percent (current dollars) from FY 1978 to FY 1997. The average rate of growth was higher for collections on behalf of non-AFDC families (16.5 percent) than for collections on behalf of AFDC families (9.9 percent). This rate of growth is attributable to both increases in the number of noncustodial parents paying child support and increases in the amount of child support paid per case.

Table ECON 8a. Total, Non-AFDC/TANF, and AFDC/TANF Title IV-D Child Support Collections, 1978 to 1997

  Total Collections (In millions)  
  Total AFDC Collections    
Fiscal Year Current Dollars Constant '97 Dollars Total Payments to AFDC Families Federal & State Share of Collections Non-AFDC Collections Total IV-D Administrative Expenditures

Note: Not all states report current child support collections in all years. Constant dollar adjustments to 1997 level were made using a CPI-U-X1 fiscal year average price index.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1997 Data Report, 1998 (and earlier years), Washington, DC.

1978 $1,047 $2,527 $472 $13 $459 $575 $312
1979 1,333 2,954 597 12 584 736 383
1980 1,478 2,937 603 10 593 874 466
1981 1,629 2,948 671 12 659 958 526
1982 1,771 2,992 786 15 771 985 612
1983 2,024 3,284 880 15 865 1,144 691
1984 2,378 3,696 1,000 17 983 1,378 723
1985 2,694 4,038 1,090 189 901 1,604 814
1986 3,249 4,750 1,225 275 955 2,019 941
1987 3,917 5,569 1,349 278 1,070 2,569 1,066
1988 4,605 6,290 1,486 289 1,188 3,128 1,171
1989 5,241 6,831 1,593 307 1,286 3,648 1,363
1990 6,010 7,462 1,750 334 1,416 4,260 1,606
1991 6,886 8,138 1,984 381 1,603 4,902 1,804
1992 7,964 9,136 2,259 435 1,824 5,705 1,995
1993 8,907 9,919 2,416 446 1,971 6,491 2,241
1994 9,850 10,686 2,550 457 2,093 7,300 2,556
1995 10,827 11,428 2,689 474 2,215 8,138 3,012
1996 12,020 12,344 2,855 480 2,375 9,165 3,055
1997 13,380 13,380 2,856 157 2,698 10,524 3,424
  • From FY 1984 through FY 1996, the first $50 dollars of each month’s child support collection was passed-through to families that were receiving AFDC benefits. The “Collections Paid to Families” shown in Table ECON 8a reflects this $50 pass-through and other benefit adjustments. In FY 1997, states were no longer required to continue the $50 pass-through, and so collections paid to families dropped from $480 million in FY 1996 to $157 million in FY 1997.

Figure ECON 8b. Average Annual Child Support Enforcement Payments for Current Support by Noncustodial Parents with an Obligation and Payment in Nominal and Constant 1997 Dollars, 1986 to 1997

Figure ECON 8b. Average Annual Child Support Enforcement Payments for Current Support by Noncustodial Parents with an Obligation and Payment in Nominal and Constant 1997 Dollars, 1986 to 1997

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1997 Data Report, 1998, and Twentieth Annual Report to Congress, for the period ending September 30, 1995 (and earlier years), Washington, DC.


  • Figure ECON 8b represents the average annual payment of current support by noncustodial parents for families receiving services through the child support enforcement system. Payments on behalf of families not receiving AFDC were about twice as large as those payments for families receiving AFDC. (Note that many families not on AFDC may have received AFDC sometime in the past.)
  • As shown in Table ECON 8b, annual payments in current dollars on behalf of AFDC and non-AFDC families have increased by more than 40 percent between FY 1986 and FY 1997. However, when converted to constant dollars, per capita payments have not quite kept pace with inflation.
  • In FY 1996, collections were received from about 60 percent of the cases with orders and those collections represented about 52 percent of the current child support due (Table ECON 8b2). About 32 percent of the current support due on behalf of AFDC families is collected, compared to 60 percent collected on behalf of families not receiving AFDC.

Table ECON 8b1. Average Annual Child Support Enforcement Payments for Current Support by Noncustodial Parents with an Obligation and Payment in Nominal and Constant Dollars, 1986 – 1997

  AFDC/TANF Non-AFDC/TANF Totals  
  Current Dollars Constant ’97 Dollars Current Dollars Constant ’97 Dollars Current Dollars Constant ’97 Dollars FY CPI-U
1986-97              
– change $402 -$27 $379 -$515 $685 $23 50.5
– percent 41.9% -1.9% 19.6% -18.2% 47.8% 1.1% 46.2%
Note: Data for 1997 are preliminary and does not include information from Florida, Hawaii, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1997 Data Report, 1998, and Twenty-first Annual Report to Congress, for the period ending September 30, 1996 (and earlier years), Washington, DC.
1986 $959 $1,402 $1,936 $2,830 $1,433 $2,095 109.3
1987 910 1,294 1,851 2,632 1,416 2,013 112.4
1988 975 1,332 1,793 2,449 1,468 2,005 117.0
1989 1,046 1,363 1,770 2,307 1,457 1,899 122.6
1990 1,110 1,378 1,998 2,481 1,672 2,076 128.7
1991 1,049 1,240 1,989 2,351 1,711 2,022 135.2
1992 1,210 1,388 2,314 2,655 1,919 2,201 139.3
1993 1,230 1,370 2,498 2,782 1,990 2,216 143.5
1994 1,178 1,278 2,266 2,458 1,889 2,049 147.3
1995 1,294 1,366 2,595 2,739 2,167 2,287 151.4
1996 1,280 1,315 2,591 2,661 2,152 2,210 155.6
1997 1,361 1,361 2,315 2,315 2,118 2,118 159.8

Table ECON 8b2. Proportion of IV-D Cases with Orders and Collections and Proportion of Amount Paid to Amount Due, FY 1996 (In millions)

  AFDC Cases Non-AFDC Cases Total Cases

Note: FY 1997 data are not available.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1996 Data Report, Washington, DC, 1997 and unpublished data.

Number of Cases with Orders (Current Support) 2.44 4.13 6.57
Number of Cases with Collections (Current Support) 1.20 2.76 3.96
Percent of Cases with Collection (Current Support) 49% 67% 60%
Amount of Current Support Due $4,795 $11,971 $16,766
Amount of Current Support Paid $1,535 $ 7,150 $ 8,684
Percent Paid 32% 60% 52%

Figure ECON 8c. Percentage of Single Mothers Receiving Child Support by Marital Status and Receipt of Income Assistance, 1977 – 1996

Figure ECON 8c. Percentage of Single Mothers Receiving Child Support by Marital Status and Receipt of Income Assistance, 1977 – 1996

Source: Elaine Sorensen, the Urban Institute, unpublished data from the March Current Population Survey Public Use Files, 1978 – 1997.


  • Single mothers enrolled in the AFDC program are less likely than other single mothers to receive child support, even after controlling for marital status. Since the authorization of the Child Support Enforcement program in the mid-1970s, the proportion of single AFDC mothers receiving child support has generally increased, resulting in a narrowing of the gap between AFDC and non-AFDC mothers. Between 1995 and 1996, however, the proportion of AFDC recipients receiving child support declined, following drops in the AFDC caseload and shifts in its composition.

Table ECON 8c. Percentage of Single Mothers Receiving Child Support and Alimony by Marital Status and Receipt of Income Assistance, 1977 – 1996

  Divorced Separated Never Married
  AFDC Non-AFDC AFDC Non-AFDC AFDC Non-AFDC
1977-96 Change 14.5 -4.0 13.2 -0.6 13.2 14.8

Note: Married women also receive child support, but the proportion of eligible married women cannot be identified on the March CPS file. Child support and alimony were not collected as separate items prior to 1988. They are left combined for all years to ensure comparability across years.

Source: Elaine Sorensen, the Urban Institute, unpublished data from the March Current Population Survey Public Use Files,
1978 - 1997.

1977 13.2 57.5 7.1 34.2 2.6 3.7
1978 14.0 56.1 7.2 32.4 5.4 9.9
1979 12.2 55.2 9.3 34.3 4.6 9.9
1980 13.0 53.3 7.4 28.4 1.8 9.2
1981 13.9 56.9 10.4 33.2 3.3 5.6
1982 10.8 52.0 8.0 30.3 4.0 9.7
1983 13.8 49.5 9.1 32.3 3.9 8.2
1984 15.6 53.3 6.2 28.6 4.2 10.9
1985 18.3 54.1 10.3 28.2 9.0 11.2
1986 29.4 55.0 16.7 32.5 9.0 12.2
1987 30.6 52.2 14.8 31.1 11.3 9.6
1988 26.5 50.3 14.4 30.3 10.3 11.3
1989 32.9 52.4 17.3 30.0 13.5 11.1
1990 25.0 53.7 16.6 30.3 14.0 12.4
1991 27.9 54.5 15.0 27.1 12.7 13.1
1992 30.6 54.6 17.2 30.4 14.8 15.5
1993 33.1 53.7 23.0 28.1 13.4 18.1
1994 33.6 52.1 24.2 32.1 14.4 18.9
1995 35.0 51.3 26.3 32.6 16.6 18.9
1996 27.7 53.5 20.3 33.6 15.8 18.5
  • Figure ECON 8c also shows that divorced and separated women are more likely to receive child support than are never-married women.
  • The proportion of never-married women receiving child support is similar for the AFDC and non-AFDC populations. The upward trend lines for both groups reflect the paternity establishment activities of the Child Support Enforcement Program, as very few paternities are established outside of the CSE system.
  • The proportion of divorced and separated women receiving child support but not AFDC payments has remained relatively constant.

Figure ECON 8d. Estimated Children Under 18 Born Outside of Marriage With Paternity Established, 1978 – 1997

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics of the United States, annual and Monthly Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 46, No. 1, Supplement 2, September 11, 1997 and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1997 Data Report, 1998 (and earlier years), Washington, DC.


  • The cumulative number of children needing paternity to be established has risen steadily over the last two decades due to growing numbers of children being born outside of marriage. The cumulative total of children born outside of marriage as of 1997 was about 17.5 million as shown in Figure ECON 8d. While the number and percentage of paternity establishments has increased, 45 percent of these children still did not have a legally identified father.

Table ECON 8d. Estimated Children under 18 Born Outside of Marriage with Paternity Established

(In thousands)

  1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1997

1 Non-marital births in 1997 are estimated based on the 12 months ending June 1997 as compared to the preceding 12 months.

Note: Total children under 18 years of age who were born outside of marriage is the cumulative total of nonmarital births less deaths; paternities established is the cumulative total of voluntary and C.S.E. paternity establishment as well as estimated births legitimated by marriage and adoption. An unknown number of children born outside of marriage are living with step-fathers who may have assumed paternal responsibility without legal adoption.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics of the United States, annual and Monthly Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 46, No. 1, Supplement 2, September 11, 1997 and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Preliminary Child Support Enforcement FY 1997 Data Report, 1998 (and earlier years), Washington, DC.

Children Under 18 Born Outside of Marriage (est.) 6,212 6,932 7,781 8,674 9,680 10,816 12,175 13,743 15,326 16,816 17,501
Paternity Not Established 3,460 3,869 4,371 4,877 5,487 6,093 6,786 7,638 8,306 8,268 7,910
Paternity Established 2,752 3,063 3,410 3,797 4,193 4,722 5,389 6,105 7,020 8,548 9,591
    Percent of Children 44.3 44.2 43.8 43.8 43.3 43.7 44.3 44.4 45.8 50.8 54.8
Paternities Established for Nonmarital Births in a Year:
Nonmarital Births1 544 666 715 770 878 1,005 1,165 1,225 1,290 1,260 1,267
Paternities Established 111 144 173 219 245 307 393 512 676 1,043 1,282
    Percent of Births 20.4 21.6 24.2 28.4 27.9 30.5 33.7 41.8 52.5 82.7 101.2
  • As shown in Table ECON 8d, the number of paternities established each year as a percent of the number of children born outside of marriage each year has increased from 20 percent in 1978 to over 100 percent in 1997. This increasing rate of paternity establishment in the 1990s has increased the proportion of children with paternity established from about 44 percent in the period prior to 1994 to nearly 55 percent in 1997.
  • The proportion of all children under age 18 with paternities established has increased significantly in the past few years. This increase reflects the additional paternities now being established in the hospitals at the time of the birth of the child.
  • Reporting of in-hospital paternity establishments is voluntary and reflects reports from only 39 states, therefore the rate of increase in paternity establishments over the past few years may be underestimated.

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