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Child Support Statistics

Custodial Mothers & Fathers – Statistics from the U.S. Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau. Dec. 2011

An estimated 13.7 million parents had custody of 22.0 million children under 21 years of age while the other parent lived somewhere else.

  • About 1 in 6 custodial parents were fathers (17.8 percent).
  • More than one-quarter (26.2 percent) of all children under 21 years of age in families lived with only one of their parents. About half (49.2 percent) of all Black children lived in custodial parent families.
  • Most custodial parents had one child (57.2 percent).
  • Over one-quarter (28.3 percent) of all custodial parents had incomes below poverty.
  • About half (50.6 percent) of all custodial parents had either legal or informal child support agreements.
  • Custodial parents receiving the full amount of child support due declined between 2007 and 2009, from 46.8 percent to 41.2 percent.
  • Of the $35.1 billion in child support due in 2009, 61.0 percent was reported as received, averaging $3,630 per custodial parent who was due support.
  • Child support represented 62.6 percent of the average income for custodial parents below poverty who received full support.
  • Over half (60.3 percent) of custodial parents received some type of noncash support from noncustodial parents on behalf of their children.

This report focuses on the child support income that custodial parents reported receiving from noncustodial parents living elsewhere, and other types of support, such as health insurance and noncash assistance.1 The most recent data in this report are from the Child Support Supplement to the April 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS). It provides demographic information about custodial parents as of 2010, as well as child support and other income or program data for the 2009 calendar year.2 The report also shows the latest 16-year trends by comparing data collected from the 1994 April CPS and subsequent biennial surveys. (See text box “Limitations of the Data” for additional survey information).

Limitations of the Data

Since child support can be ordered by a court in some states until a child is 21 years old or completes college, this report covers parents’ own children under 21, rather than applying the Census Bureau’s uusual definition of children as those under 18 years of age. Some children living with neither biological parent, such as those living with grandparents or foster parents, may also be eligible to receive child support but are not part of the universe in the CPS child support supplement.

Changes made to the April CPS supplement in 1994 do not allow comparisons between these data and CPS data collected before that year. These changes included refining the screening of potential respondents, restructuring the questionnaire to accommodate computerizing the survey, revising terminology that refers to types of child support agreements or awards, increasing the detail in questions about the amount of child support due, including overdue child support (back support), and adding new questions on pass-through payments (child support collected for public assistance recipients by a state enforcement office, some of which passes through to recipients). The amount of child support payments received by recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), is likely underreported because some states retain some or all child support collected on behalf of children of custodial parents. Some households in the April CPS supplement sample also participated in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the 2010 CPS, where additional information, such as income and health insurance coverage in the preceding year, was also collected and matched to the respondent.

Additional information and detailed tables are available via the Internet at the following website:

Custodial Parents and Their Children.

In the spring of 2010, an estimated 13.7 million parents had custody of 22.0 million children under 21 years of age while the other parent lived somewhere else.3 Although the population of the United States increased by 17.1 percent since 1994, the number of custodial parents was not statistically different from 1994 (Table 1).4 The 22.0 million children living with their custodial parent represented over one-quarter (26.2 percent) of all 83.8 million children under 21 years old living in families.5 Among White children in families, 22.4 percent lived with their custodial parents.6

The proportion of Black children in families who lived with their custodial parent while their other parent lived outside their household (49.2 percent) was more than twice as large as the proportion of White children. Among children of other races—including American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut, Asian or Pacific Islander, or other races—12.9 percent lived in custodial-parent families. Approximately one-quarter (23.4 percent) of Hispanic children, who may be of any race, lived with their custodial parent.7 Demographic Characteristics The majority of custodial parents were mothers (82.2 percent), and about 1 in 6 (17.8 percent) were fathers, proportions which were not statistically different from 1994.8



1. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child(ren) lived during the survey interview when their other parent(s) lived outside the household, although there may be equal joint- or split-custody arrangements.

2. The population represented (the population universe) is the civilian noninstitutionalized population living in the United States, 15 years of age or older, who have their own children under 21 years old living with them while the other parent lives outside the household.

3. The estimates in this report (which may be shown in text, figures, and tables) are based on responses from a sample of the population and may differ from actual values because of sampling variability or other factors. As a result, apparent differences between the estimates for two or more groups may not be statistically significant. All comparative statements have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90 percent confidence level unless otherwise noted.

4. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements. Table P-1. Total CPS Population and Per Capita Income, /hhes/www/income/data/historical/people/P01AR_2009.xls.

5. A family is a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together; all such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family. Beginning with the 1980 Current Population Survey, unrelated subfamilies (referred to in the past as secondary families) are no longer included in the count of families, nor are the members of unrelated subfamilies included in the count of family members. The number of families is equal to the number of family households, however, the count of family members differs from the count of family household members because family household members include any nonrelatives living in the household.

6. Federal surveys now give respondents the option of reporting more than one race. Therefore, two basic ways of defining a race group are possible. A group, such as Black, may be defined as those who reported Black and no other race (the race-alone or singlerace concept) or as those who reported Black regardless of whether they also reported another race (the race-alone-or-in- combination concept). The body of this report (text, figures, and tables) shows data for people who reported they were the single race White and not Hispanic and people who reported the single race Black. Use of the single-race populations does not imply that it is the preferred method of presenting or analyzing data. The U.S. Census Bureau uses a variety of approaches. See Detailed Table 12 at the following website: for a listing of custodial parents by racial group.

7. See Detailed Table 11 at . The prortion of Hispanic children in custodial-parent families (23.4 percent) was not statistically different from the proportion of White children in custodial-parent families (22.4 percent).

8. See Detailed Table 4 at .

Serving Orange County, San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and Ventura County. We enforce California child support orders and spousal support orders anywhere in California, and in many cases, nationwide, under the the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

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