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The Regularity of Child Support and Its Contribution to the Regularity of Income

Boston UniversityUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison

The declining availability of public assistance and increasing reliance on child support as a key income source for single-parent families raise questions about the adequacy and consistency of support. Using detailed Wisconsin administrative records for custodial mothers who obtained a new child support order in 2000, this study examines the regularity of child support receipt and its contribution to the regularity of total income among custodial-mother families over a 5-year period. Findings suggest variation in levels of regularity; among mothers who receive support in a given year, slightly less than half consistently receive a regular amount. The characteristics of those with any receipt of child support are found to differ on some measures from those of mothers with regular receipt. The findings also show that child support generally increases the regularity of the mothers’ total family income, especially that for mothers in low-income families.