This 2004 study by the Office of Child Support Enforcement shows that, according to their figures, 63% of all people who are behind on their child support report earning less than $10,000 per year. That accounts for 70% of all the child support owed in this country. The same figures show that 34% of child support obligors report earning no money at all during the year.
84% of non-custodial parents are fathers
Sanford Braver found that, when obligors who had lost their job were removed from the database, between 80% and 100% of child support was paid in full and on time. - Source
Now, when we talk about deadbeat dads, this mostly means deadbroke dads. To make matters worse, this is what could happen soon:
Old child support debts could cost thousands of poor men their only income next year because of a policy aimed at reducing the cost to the government of mailing paper checks to pay federal benefits.
The Treasury Department will start paying benefits electronically next March. It will stop issuing the paper checks that many people rely on to safeguard a portion of their benefits from states trying to collect back child support.
States can freeze the bank accounts of people who owe child support. A separate Treasury Department rule, in place since last May in a preliminary form, guarantees them the power to freeze Social Security, disability and veterans' benefits that have been deposited into those accounts.
Once paper checks are eliminated, about 275,000 people could lose access to all of their income, advocates say.
In many cases, the bills are decades old and the children long grown. Much of the money owed is interest and fees that add up when men are unable to pay because they are disabled, institutionalized or imprisoned.
Most of the money will go to governments, not to the children of the men with child support debts, independent analyses show. States are allowed to keep child support money as repayment for welfare previously provided for those children.
In some instances, the grown children are supporting their fathers.
The rule change illustrates how a politically desirable goal like cracking down on so-called deadbeat dads can have complicated, even counterproductive, effects in practice.
We see this happen again and again and again where they make it harder and harder on these deadbeat dads and make life worse for poor men. Be it imprisoning them, taking their driver's license, not allowing them to leave the country, not paying them a defense attorney on hearings, interest fees etc. It has long stopped to make sense as most measurements do not actually help the fathers to pay.
People who owe large amounts of child support are almost universally poor. Among those owing $30,000 or more, three-fourths had no reported income or income of less than $10,000, HHS says. Many had their earnings interrupted by disability or jail time and are unlikely to repay the child support debt, the government-sponsored research says.
The usual methods of collecting back child support often don't work with the poor. States typically start by garnishing wages. If that doesn't work, they can suspend driver's licenses, revoke passports and take away professional credentials.
Those measures have little effect on poor people without jobs who rely on federal benefits. They have no wages to garnish and no passports. Many can't afford a car and do not need a driver's license.
State child support agencies echo the HHS view that child support enforcement should not be so draconian that people end up with nothing.