Why Has the Percent of Zero Orders Increased Among Current Assistance Cases?

June 13, 2018
Topics: 
Image with a dollar bill folded in the shape of a zero

AUTHOR: ELAINE SORENSEN

Some child support orders do not have a dollar support amount. These orders are referred to as zero orders. National data shows that 10% of all orders were zero orders in FY 2016 and that this figure has not changed since FY 2010 (see red line in Figure 1). However, once orders are divided by case type, a large increase in the percent of zero orders is observed among Current Assistance cases. The percent of zero orders among Current Assistance cases more than doubled between FY 2001 and FY 2016, increasing from 8% to 18% (see blue line in Figure 1).

Figure 1. Percent of Zero Orders by Case Type: National Trends

Figure with Percent of Zero Orders by Case Type: National Trends
Source: Both figures use data from Form OCSE-157.

Any national trend can be significantly impacted by one state with a large number of cases in the trending category. Because California contains nearly one quarter of all Current Assistance cases with orders nationwide, we examined the trends in Figure 1 without California. As shown in Figure 2, once California is removed from the data, the trend in the percent of zero orders among Current Assistance cases is very different. In the rest of the nation, the percent of zero orders among Current Assistance cases increased only 5 percentage points, from 5% to 10% between FY 2001 and FY 2016. In contrast, the trends in the percent of Former Assistance, Never Assistance, and Total zero orders are not that different between Figures 1 and 2. For example, in the rest of the nation, the total percent of zero orders increased from 5% to 8% between FY 2001 and FY 2016, and similarly, 6% to 10% when California is included.

Figure 2. Percent of Zero Orders by Case Type: Nation without California

Figure with Percent of Zero Orders by Case Type: Nation without California

We have written a Story Behind the Numbers on this topic that explores the zero order trends nationally, in California, and among case types, and more closely examines the reasons for the increase in zero orders.

We look forward to your comments to DPSAsupport@acf.hhs.gov.

Last Reviewed: June 12, 2018

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