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Characteristics of Families Served by the Child Support (IV-D) Program: 2010 Census Survey Results

Published: July 1, 2013

Summary of IV-D Characteristics Report

This report identifies the characteristics of the custodial families who utilize services of the IV-D program.  Although OCSE and state child support agencies collect and report a substantial amount of data about child support, they collect little about the economic and demographic characteristics of custodial families in the IV-D program. As a result, OCSE has worked with the U.S. Census Bureau since the 1970s to collect this type of data.  The Census Bureau adds a supplement every other year to its main household survey called the Current Population Survey (CPS). This supplement asks a series of questions that first identifies custodial families and then asks about child support awards and services received.

The report uses the latest data available from the Census Bureau on custodial families, which was collected in 2010 and reflects the income of families in 2009.  Custodial families are identified using a series of questions in the Census survey based upon a methodology originally developed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services.  It is worth noting that the Census surveys biological, adopted or step-parents who are custodians of children under 21 years old who have a parent living outside the household, so it does not capture the entire universe of families served by the IV-D program.  We estimate that it captures about 75 percent of the families in the IV-D program.

These are key findings described in this report:

  • Approximately 36 percent of families in the IV-D program were poor in 2009 and nearly half had family incomes below 150 percent of the poverty threshold.
  • Custodial parents who participate in the IV-D program are much more likely to be poor, never married, under the age of 30 years old, and have limited education than custodial parents outside the IV-D program.
  • In 2009, the IV-D program served nearly 80 percent of poor custodial families.

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