Divorce Research Update– 6-29-2015

New ideas to consider in thinking about child support policy.  Too often we assume that over the past few decades we understand the economic consequences of divorce and that we have created appropriate policy responses regarding child support.  These 2 reports suggest that we still have much to learn.  Meyer and colleagues raise many questions about how child support laws are working and a report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies explores the variations in the economic circumstances of families in Australia, Germany, Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A more complete list of research report about divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies published in 2015 or between 2010-2015.

Meyer, D. R., Cancian, M., & Chen, Y. (2015).  Why Are Child Support Orders Becoming Less Likely after Divorce?  Social Service Review.

Despite substantial policy attention to increasing the number of custodial parents
with child support orders, the proportion reporting that they are owed child support is falling.  Potential explanations for this include increases in shared custody, increases in the …

de Vaus, D., Gray, M., Qu, L., & Stanton, D. (March 2015).  The Economic Consequences of Divorce in Six OECD Countries, Research Report No. 31,  Australian Institute of Family Studies.  

This report presents a cross-national comparison of the short- and medium-term economic effects of divorce.  Estimates for men and women are derived from longitudinal data from Australia, Germany, Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It details how the main sources of income for women change following divorce, and the relative contribution of these sources. The findings show that though divorce has a negative effect on the equivalent household incomes of women in all of these countries, the extent and duration of these negative effects differ markedly between the nations.

The report concludes by briefly considering the possible causes of these differences.


Child Support Enforcement in the United States

The US federal government collects much data about child support and its enforcement.  Over the past 50 years there have been many changes in the enforcement process.  (See history 1950-2012 and 2013 update.).

In addition to this description you can see the changes in the demographics of the participants over time.  Below is a summary of this 2013 report.

The national Census Bureau data show that in 2011, 14.4 million parents had custody of children under age 21 while the other parent lived elsewhere, and the aggregate amount of child support received was $23.6 billion. In 2011, 82% of custodial parents were mothers. Of all custodial parents, 50% were white, 25% were black, 21% were Hispanic, 18% were married, 33% were divorced, 35% were never married, 15% did not have a high school diploma, 17% had at least a bachelor’s degree, 50% worked full-time year-round, 29% had family income below poverty, and 39% received some type of public assistance. In 2011, only 2.7 million (38%) of the nearly 7.1 million custodial parents with child support orders actually received the full amount of child support that was owed to them. The average yearly child support payment received by custodial parents with payments was $5,160 for mothers and $4,433 for fathers. These full or partial payments represented 17% of the custodial mothers’ total yearly income and 11% of the custodial fathers’. Compared to 1993 Census data, less child support was received by custodial parents in 2011 ($23.9 billion in 1993 versus $23.6 billion in 2011; in 2011 dollars). However, a higher percentage of those owed child support actually received all that they were due (36.9% in 1993 versus 43.4% in 2011).