The Public Interest

A new approach to child support

Elizabeth Uhr & Irwin Garfinkel

Spring 1984

Is it in the public interest for the government to collect child support from parents who live apart from their children? Two facts taken together suggest the importance of the answer to this question. First, children with absent parents are a sizable and growing proportion of the population: One in five American children now lives apart from one parent.1 Because of increasing rates of divorce, separation, and out-of-wedlock births, it is estimated that nearly half of all children born today will spend part of their first 18 years in a family headed by a single mother.2 Second, approximately half of all children in families headed by women are poor.3 In other words, if present trends continue, about one in four American children will experience poverty before age 18.

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