In 2016, more than one in four children under 21 in the United States lived in a household apart from one of their parents. In 80 percent of these households, the custodial parent was the mother and the non-residential parent was the father. The amount and frequency of financial support that both parents provide shapes household economic stability, which can also affect children’s overall health and well-being. Non-residential parents often have a legal obligation to help pay the costs associated with raising their children. However, some non-residential parents pay these costs inconsistently or not at all.
To better document whether and how consistently non-residential fathers contribute financially, this data snapshot presents information on the amount and frequency of formal and informal child support payments. We include in our analysis fathers aged 20-49 who reported living apart from at least one biological or adopted child age 18 or younger, using data from the 2015–2017 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). We also analyze mothers’ reports of informal support, using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). See the data box at the end of this document for more information on data sources.