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After all the policy reform, is child support actually helping low-income mothers?

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The economic vulnerability of children in lone-parent families has drawn attention to child support policy. After 13 years of constant policy changes the child support system remains highly problematic and is currently undergoing an independent review. Given this, it is timely to question whether child support payments (from all types of agreements, not just Child Support Agency assessments) are actually helping lone-mother families. Or are most low-income mothers connected to men who have little capacity to pay, so that child support actually helps only moderate-income families? This article uses data from the UK Families and Children Study to examine the receipt of child support by lone mothers across the income distribution. It examines the amounts of child support received and the contribution it makes to total income packages across two major groupings: lone-mother quintile groups and poverty groups. We find that lone mothers who are already relatively better off (compared with other lone mothers in the survey) are more likely to receive child support. However, lone mothers who receive child support tend to receive similar median amounts, regardless of their income levels. Moreover, child support is a more important part of the income package for lone mothers with low incomes than for those with higher incomes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 2006

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  • Benefits (now known as The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice)

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    Benefits (to be known as The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice from 2010) provides a unique blend of high-quality research, policy and practice from leading authors in the field related to all aspects of poverty and social exclusion. The journal has changed its name to reflect its wider scope and has growing international coverage.

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