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June 1992, Vol. 115, No. 6
Jonathan R. Veum
T he composition of families has changed significantly over the past 15 to 20 years. Particularly, the percentage of families that were headed by women grew from 21.1 percent to 31.1 percent from 1970 to 1988. The growth in the number of such families is occurring for two reasons. First, there has been a large increase in marital separation and divorce. The percentage of divorced women aged 18 or older increased from 4.3 percent in 1970 to 13.9 percent in 1988. Second, there has been a sharp rise in the number of unwed mothers, as the frequency of births to unwed mothers increased from 26.4 percent in 1970 to 38.6 percent in 1988.1
Consequently, financial support, and the lack of it, for children who live apart from their fathers is of increasing concern. In 1987, only 3.7 million of the 9.4 million women with own children under age 21 whose father was absent received child support. In addition, about one-third of these women had incomes below the poverty level, and data show that many families in poverty receive welfare payments.2 Hence, a contributing factor to the incidence of poverty and welfare dependency of custodial parents is inadequate financial support received form the absent parent.
The economic situation of women with children, combined with the lack of support payments by absent fathers has led to Federal legislation aimed at collecting money from these fathers. The Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984 requires each State to establish guidelines for determining child support awards, and the Family Welfare Reform Act of 1988 requires States to provide by 1994 wage withholding for all new orders for child support awards.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 These figures are taken from the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1991 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1991).
2 These numbers are taken from Child Support and Alimony: 1987, Special Studies, Series P-23, No. 167 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, 1989).
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