In Defense of 'Deadbeat' Dads Wednesday, August 04, 2004By Wendy McElroy
July 25 Justice Department study reveals that 6.9 million people — one in 34 adults — were on probation, parole or incarcerated in 2003. This record-breaking figure has prompted calls for the removal of nonviolent offenders from the system.
If that happens, the first offenders to be removed should be "deadbeat dads" imprisoned for defaulting on child support they cannot afford to pay.
An obstacle confronts this proposal. An amazing lack of data surrounds some basic questions: How many "deadbeat dads" are in the correctional system? Do they refuse to pay or are they unable to do so?"
The dearth of data is amazing because the "deadbeat dad" has been a high-profile issue in politics and the media for many years. Non-payment of child support is a significant problem in the United States. According to the Federal Office of Child Support, in 2003, $96 billion in accumulated unpaid support was due to children in the United States; 68 percent of child support cases were in arrears. An overwhelming majority of children, particularly minorities, living in single-parent homes where child support is not paid live in poverty. Yet, many questions about these fathers and why they fail to pay remain unanswered.
The "deadbeat dad" became a priority issue on a federal level in 1975, when President Gerald Ford created the national Office of Child Support Enforcement, the function of which had previously been the purview of states.