The economics of child support

Andrea H. Beller, John W. Graham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Economic interest in child support (that is, legally mandated payments from a non-custodial to custodial parent) has grown over time as the number of children living with only one parent has exploded. In 1970, fully 85 percent of children under the age of eighteen in the United States lived with two parents, while 12 percent lived with one parent. By 1995, just 69 percent lived with two parents, while 27 percent lived with one, most often their mother. Given high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births, demographers estimate that more than half of all children will spend part of their childhood with only one parent, while their other parent resides elsewhere (Larry L. Bumpass 1984; Irwin Garfinkel and Sara S. McLanahan 1986; McLanahan and Gary Sandefur 1994). Although the absent parent continues to have a legal and moral obligation to help provide financial support, in many cases establishing paternity (if the parents had never married), obtaining an adequate child support award, and collecting payments owed have proven to be difficult. Concern for the well-being of children in child-support-eligible families stems from many sources. One source of concern is the below-average incomes and other resources (such as, parental time, school quality, and community services) available to many of them. In 1996 the median income of married-couple families with children was $51,894, compared to just $18,261 for mother-only families.1 The regular receipt of child support can make a difference: Custodial mothers receiving child support had incomes that averaged almost $8,000 higher than mothers without a child support award.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMarriage and the Economy
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Evidence from Advanced Industrial Societies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780511615863
ISBN (Print)0521891434, 9780521814546
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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