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AFA Journal


Divorced Moms, Kids Face Poverty

AFA Journal, January 2001 Edition

American mothers who get a divorce have two things they can be fairly sure of--their income will decrease significantly, perhaps even to the level of poverty; and life will be even more bleak if their former husbands fail to pay child support.

These are the facts as set forth in a pair of studies--one conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University, and the other from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the former report, published in The American Sociological Review, researchers used three three statistical tests to determine that "women who divorce...have significantly lower levels of family income and income-to-need ratios...than those who remain married."

Adding to the problems faced by divorced women who have custody of the children is the proverbial deadbeat dad who fails to pay child support. According to the Census Bureau, one-third of the kids whose fathers don't pay child support live in poverty.

"Nonpayment of child support is a crime that causes poverty in America," Geraldine Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, told the Associated Press.

Researcher Judi Bartfield of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reached identical conclusions, publishing her findings in Demography. Regarding child support, however, Bartfield also found that "[e]ven if full compliance [with child support orders] were achieved, a sizable share of poor and near-poor divorced mothers would remain" in poverty.

The Family in America, New Research, 9/00, 7/00; AP, 4/23/99