Performance Improvement 2008. Why Does Child Support Debt Grow; Is It Collectable?


Child support debt in nine States was studied. In FY 2005, the Child Support Enforcement program collected about $22 billion, but over $105 billion remained on State child support accounts as uncollected support (arrears) from prior years. To learn more about who owes this debt, why it has grown so rapidly, and how collectable it is, State administrative data from nine large States were matched to Federal wage and unemployment insurance (UI) data.

Most debtors had little reported income; 70 percent of total arrears were owed by parents earning $10,000 a year or less. Support orders for low-income non-custodial parents were relatively high compared to income. On average, those with incomes of $10,000 a year or less were ordered to pay 83 percent of their income to child support, compared to 11 percent of income for those earning $40,000 a year or more. Most obligors paid about 10 percent of their income in child support, regardless of order amount. Without changes in State policies and procedures, child support debt is estimated to grow by 59 percent over the next ten years. Not surprisingly, States that charge interest on child support debt have experienced greater rates of debt growth.

Report Title: Assessing Child Support Arrears in Nine Large States and the Nation,
Agency Sponsor:
ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy
Federal Contact:
Jennifer Burnszynski, 202-690-8651
Performer: The Urban Institute

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"PerformanceImprovement2008.pdf" (pdf, 1.29Mb)

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