How to lie with Statistics
The US Bureau of the Census proudly declares at the end of its press release dated April 23, 1999 that it is the
pre-eminent collector and disseminator of timely,
relevant and quality data about the people and the economy of the United
States, conducts a population and housing census every 10 years, an
economic census every five years and more than 100 demographic and
economic surveys every year, all of them evolving from the first census in
The use of the term "quality data" in that statement doesn't leave doubt in anyone's mind that it is intended to imply that the quality of data collected and disseminated by the US Census Bureau pertains to accuracy, truth and honesty. However in that respect the use of that term by the US Bureau of the Census is quite misleading, perhaps intentionally so. One would expect that in a matter as important as child support intended to guarantee the welfare of the children of divorce and separation, accuracy, truth and honesty are of the utmost importance. It should also be expected that when comparisons are made of the attributes of various family-types in that respect, that a picture would emerge that provides objective, clear and unequivocal impressions of which type of family is the one that provides the best possible environment in which to raise the most important asset of the American Nation, its children, who'll comprise the future citizens of that great nation in decline.
Never in history has it been as important as it is right now to be clear on that, so that effective methods can be devised by which to support, strengthen, nurture and implement the family type that produces the best possible results with respect to the qualities of future citizens. However, it is not quite so clear from the data published with the press release on child support that the US Bureau of the Census actually has that objective in mind. If it does, one must truly wonder why it has gone so far out of its way to obscure and obfuscate accuracy, truth and honesty.
The term "quality" without a modifier is dimensionless. The quality of any product or thing can obviously range from extremely bad to exceedingly good. If a modifier is applied to the quality of the child support data provided by the US Bureau of the Census then that data is closer to being bad than to being good, as far as the degree of objectiveness is concerned. Even though a considerable amount of effort goes into its collections and interpretation, that alone doesn't guarantee that the quality of data or the information derived from it is good! Two obvious possible reasons for the poor quality of the child support data produced by the US Bureau of the Census come to mind. One is that data pertaining to families is difficult to collect on account of the multitudes of various "family types" that are increasingly replacing the traditional nuclear family. The other reason most likely comes into play when a hidden agenda is the motivating force.
In view of the fact that a considerable effort is being made by the Bureau to collect information about as many family types as possible, it is impossible to understand why that data is not presented in an objective fashion that makes it obvious to recognize the full extent of the advantages of one family type over all others. Interestingly, the bias inherent in the presentation of the Bureau's data is present (whether on purpose or not is immaterial) in such a way that it obscures and diminishes the differences between family-types and groups of individuals who are involved in the upbringing of children. That leaves only one possible conclusion. The policies of the US Bureau of the Census are hostile toward the traditional nuclear family and fathers, and favorable to promoting alternative types of families (perhaps "femilies" would be a better term to use).
It is hoped that the comparisons made of the information presented in this page will clarify some of these concerns in more detail.
How to lie with statistics
In the US Bureau of the Census press release (April 23, 1999) shown below, some corresponding highlights are inserted from the US Census report "Child Support for Mother and Fathers: 1991" to permit comparison of data from 1995 and 1991.
A note of caution is in order about the data from which the comparisons are made. There are many different ways by which statistics can be used to present lies. Two of those that have been applied by the US Bureau of the Census in their presentation of the 1991 and 1995 child support data are contained in the data shown below and both of these introduce serious errors.
Without any doubt the US Bureau of the Census, just as Statistics Canada often does without making the distinction clear apparently purposefully attempting to hide it counts stepfathers along with
natural fathers into the category "single fathers" as well as counting stepparents into the category "two-parent families." Of course, doing so doesn't constitute telling a lie, or does it? In the courts, witnesses are being admonished to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
We know that witnesses and lawyers can and do bend the truth to a considerable extent. In fact, a good portion of the training of lawyers is to imbue them with the capability of being able to do that without appearing to come into conflict with the law. Should we not expect better from our governments? Government employees and officials are civil servants, our servants and our representatives! We must come to demand of them to tell us the truth at all times, all of it, and all of it in unbiased, clear and concise ways.
The data provided by the US Bureau of the Census isn't the real, whole and complete truth. It is seriously misleading if conclusions are drawn from it in certain respects. The differences between the data for "two-parent families" (which includes data for families with stepparents as well as data for two-parent families with two biological parents) and data for single-parent families (which includes data for single parents who are custodial parents of biological children as well as single parents who are custodial parents of stepchildren) are logically far larger than the US Bureau of the Census would have us believe.
This error diminishes the extent of the apparent detrimental impact of divorce and separation on children. The error that is thus introduced is not technically an error. However, it prevents anyone from making a comparison between children from one- or two-parent families with only biological parents and other "family types" even though it is bound to mislead many people into believing that those are exactly the kinds of comparisons that are made possible. The possible error in interpreting the data presented is of considerable size but can't be determined accurately without precise data that is lacking in the US Bureau of the Census reports presented in their press release.
A number of studies (e. g.: Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children, by the Heritage Foundation more links at Child Abuse, The Respective Roles of the Genders) by reputable sociologists of the impact of divorce and separation on children show that when the risks are assessed that children are exposed to in various "family types" and if children from families with two biological parents are compared to children of other family types, children in families with stepparents experience on average the same detrimental effects as children from families with one single biological parent and no stepparent present. As demonstrated in the Heritage Foundation report "Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children", by far the least dangerous environment for children to grow up in are families with two married biological parents.
The second serious error in the data presented by the US Bureau of the Census stems from the fact that much of what is being presented is based on data about single parent families that was provided only by custodial single mothers and not corrected for by what non-custodial
natural fathers report. That distinction is important. As Sanford Braver reports time and again about his analysis of child support and other data pertaining to children of divorced and separated families that he presents in his book "Divorced Dads Shattering the Myths," the values of many attributes of such data differ considerably with respect to what is being reported by mothers and what is being reported by fathers with what mothers report showing fathers generally in a bad light (e.g.: serious underreporting of child support amounts received by custodial mothers).
In summary, wherever two-parent families or custodial parents are mentioned in any of the information from the US Bureau of the Census presented below, data pertaining to that expression includes families with stepparents and other parents who aren't the biological parents of children in their care. Children who are in the care of "parents" other than their own biological parents are at a far higher risk to experience abuse, neglect and death. Those risks include the risks caused by poverty. It appears reasonable to assume that the extent of the risk of poverty that affects children in "families" headed by other than two biological parents is underrepresented in the US Bureau of the Census data by at least a factor of two and most certainly by far more than that, depending on what types of family are being compared.
Such misrepresentation of vital census data is not in the best interest of our children.
US Bureau of the Census Press Release
EMBARGOED UNTIL: 12:01 A.M. EDT, APRIL 23, 1999 (FRIDAY)
Public Information Office CB99-77
One in Three Custodial Parents Without Child Support Are Poor, Census Bureau Reports.
[As of spring 1992, custodial mothers had a poverty rate of 35%, about 2 1/2 times the rate of custodial fathers.]
About a third (32 percent) of custodial parents who did not receive the child support payments awarded them in 1995 were poor, according to a report released today that was co-sponsored by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau and the Department of Health and Human Services.
[It is curious that, although the highlights of the 1992 report don't mention the totals of parents living in poverty, they do show the numbers of single mothers and fathers who do so: mothers 35% (3.465 million) fathers 13% (208 thousand). That is a total of 3.673 million single parents in poverty (32% of 11.5 million).]
"Custodial parents receiving at least some of the child support they were owed had a poverty rate of 22 percent," said Census Bureau analyst Lydia Scoon-Rogers. "In general, 30 percent of custodial parents were poor in 1995, compared with 16 percent of all parents with children."
[Observation: Why do we persist in encouraging couples to divorce or separate if their children are then four times as likely than the children from married couples to live in poverty? Is that in the best interest of the children? Is it even in the best interest of the State, society or the tax payers? The 1992 Census report mentions that only 8% of married couples with children lived in poverty. Note that the figure of 16% of all "parents" mentioned in the press release contained in this message includes all single mothers, all single fathers and all married parents. It follows that, at least to some considerable extent on account of liberal divorce laws, our children are twice as likely on average to live in poverty now than they were in 1992, at a considerable cost to tax payers due to relief measures. Does it stand to reason that welfare costs would be cut in half if no-fault divorce were eliminated or prevented?]
The data in this report were collected in the April 1994 and April 1996 supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS) before passage of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. In addition, changes to the April 1994 and April 1996 survey questionnaires mean that many of these data are not comparable with data from the April 1992 CPS and earlier supplements.
Other highlights in the report titled, Child Support for Custodial Mothers and Fathers: 1995, P60-196, include:
- In the spring of 1996, 13.7 million custodial parents lived with 22.8 million children under age 21 while the other parent was absent from the home. About 11.6 million (85 percent) of custodial parents were women and 2.1 million (15 percent) were men.
[In the spring of 1992, 11.5 million custodial parents lived with their own children under age 21 while the other parent was absent from the home. About 9.9 million (86 percent) of custodial parents were women and 1.6 million (14 percent) were men.]
- About 7 in 10 (4.8 million out of 7.0 million) custodial mothers and fathers who were due child support payments received at least a portion of the amount they were owed in 1995. Average child support received was $3,732.
[In 1991, approximately 76% of the 4.9 million custodial mothers due child support received full or partial payments, compared with 63% of the 0.4 million custodial fathers. The average CS amount received by custodial mothers in 1991 was $3,011 -- about one-third more than than that received by custodial fathers ($2,292).]
- The number of custodial parents who received the full amount of child support owed them increased from 2.3 million (34 percent) in 1993 to 2.7 million (39 percent) in 1995.
[In 1991, about half of custodial parents (about 2.6 million out of 5.3 million) due CS received full payments, about one-quarter received partial payments, and about one-quarter received no payments. Note that in his analysis of these stats, Sanford Braver (Divorced Dads Shattering the Myths) points out that mothers notoriously underreport CS payments and that such statistics are generally based only on what mothers report.]
- Child support received totaled $17.8 billion [63%] of the $28.3 billion due in 1995.
[The aggregate amount of CS received was $11.9 billion in 1991, or 67%, of the $17.7 due. Isn't it astounding that, contrary to claims by president Clinton and other government officials, who so generously support with billions of dollars the implementation of coercive CS enforcement measures, the actual collection rate dropped by a full 4 percentage points over the four years from 1991 to 1995?]
- The 7.0 million noncustodial parents who owed child support in 1995 were more likely to have made payments if they had either joint custody or visitation rights. Seventy-four percent of the noncustodial parents who had these provisions made payments as opposed to 35 percent for those who did not.
[The 1991 data show that 79% of noncustodial parents with joint custody and/or "visitation privileges" that owed CS paid some or all of support due in 1991, compared with 56% of noncustodial parents with no visitation or joint custody that owed CS. Again, Sanford Braver (Divorced Dads, p. 194) shows that the compliance rate for fathers who have joint custody and satisfactory access (that is, the mothers don't deny access) to their children is 93% (by fathers' reports) or 89% (by mothers' reports). He points out that joint legal custody should on account of that be considered to be the best possible solution to defaulting on child support payments; a solution that would cost nothing to be implemented, as opposed to CS enforcement schemes that cost billions of dollar to implement and to run, with little evidence (as he illustrates in chapter 2 of "Divorced Dads") that these coercive measures have any noticeable effects. Sanford Braver provides evidence in his book that joint legal custody will cause fathers to want to pay child support voluntarily!! It would most likely have even better results with respect to the worse payment record of noncustodial mothers.]
- About 5.9 million custodial parents made 13 million contacts with a child support enforcement office or other government agency in 1995 for one or more services relating to child support.
[In 1991, about 38% (3.8 million) of custodial mothers, as compared to 15% (0.2 million) of custodial fathers, had contacted a government agency for assistance in obtaining CS.]
The report presents data on parents who have custody of their children when the other parent is absent from the home. It focuses on the child support income that custodial parents with current awards received, as well as other provisions of awards, such as visitation, joint custody and health insurance.
The data were collected from the redesigned April 1994 and April 1996 supplements to the Current Population Survey co-sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Child Support Enforcement. As in all surveys, the data are subject to sampling variability and other sources of error.
The U.S. Census Bureau, pre-eminent collector and disseminator of timely, relevant and quality data about the people and the economy of the United States, conducts a population and housing census every 10 years, an economic census every five years and more than 100 demographic and economic surveys every year, all of them evolving from the first census in 1790.
The full reports can be obtained at the following URLs:
Child Support For Custodial Mothers and Fathers: 1995 (P60-196)
If you want to make comparisons over time, see also "Child Support for Custodial Mothers and Fathers: 1991"
Changes to the April 1994 and 1996 Current Population Survey (CPS) Child Support Supplements
Source and Accuracy
Detailed Tables for 1996 (with 1995 child support income)
Detailed Tables for 1994 (with 1993 child support income)
If anyone intends to make more detailed comparisons of the data in CS reports released over time by the US Census Bureau, please let me know about it. It appears to be very important that some graphs be constructed and published to show the various trends in child-support awards and collections. I doubt it very much that I'll be able to devote the required amount of time (perhaps a week to two weeks of work). It's too bad that the government can't find it in its heart to make the effort to make such comparisons a bit more easily visible. Of course, it isn't in the government's interest to do that. It could be too embarrassing. However, it should be done, "in the best interest of our children."
The following tables and graphs are representations of the data presented in the press release by the US Bureau of the Census and of the data presented in the notes that I inserted in the press release. --WHS
POVERTY STATUS OF CUSTODIAL PARENTS, By Gender: 1995
|POVERTY STATUS OF CUSTODIAL PARENTS, By Gender: 1995|
Custodial Parents in Poverty
Custodial Parents in Poverty
Note that there are no statistics on non-custodial parents in poverty.
Numbers of Custodial Parents
|NUMBERS OF CUSTODIAL PARENTS BY GENDER|
Proportions of Custodial Parents
COMPLIANCE WITH CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS
Compliance with Child Support Orders — Numbers of Custodial parents who reported that they received all or at least part of child support owed
|Numbers of Custodial parents who reported that they received all or at least part of child support owed|
Compliance with Child Support Orders Numbers of custodial parents who are estimated to have received all or at least part of child support owed; based on reports by custodial parents
Compliance with Child Support Orders Percent of custodial parents who are estimated to have received all or at least part of child support owed; based on reports by custodial parents
Child Support owed vs. Child support paid
|COMPLIANCE WITH CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS|
The amounts of child support owed versus child support collected, as reported by custodial parents who reported that they received all or at least part of child support owed) (Billions of Dollars)
| ||CS Due||CS Received||CS Due||CS Received|| ||CS Due||CS Received |
| *Dollar amounts are billions of dollars |
Note that the data were collected from "custodial parents", which means almost exclusively custodial mothers.
Sanford Braver, in Divorced
Dads: Shattering the Myths, illustrated that when the payers (almost exclusively expunged dads) are surveyed as well, what has been paid looks vastly different. Moreover, he illustrated that so-called deadbeat dads are very rare, and the vast majority of dads in arrears are destitute, dead-broke, unemployed, underemployed, incarcerated, sick, disabled and even dead, but that, most importantly they are "dead-bolted", and that those dads that have a meaningful involvement with their children pay child support, even voluntarily.
Compliance with Child Support Orders Amounts of child support owed to custodial parents versus child support received by custodial parents; based on reports by custodial parents
Compliance with Child Support Orders Percent of child support owed to custodial parents versus percent of child support received by custodial parents; based on reports by custodial parents
Note that non-custodial parents that were payers were not asked how much they paid.
Custodial parents who asked the government for help
|CUSTODIAL PARENTS WHO CONTACTED A GOVERNMENT AGENCY FOR ASSISTANCE IN COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT |
| ||Mothers||Fathers |
Numbers of custodial Parents who contacted a government agency for assistance in collecting child support
Proportions of custodial parents (in percent) who contacted a government agency for assistance in collecting child support