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To the Editors of American Demographics:

We're interested in data that reveals the percentage of people who pay alimony and make child support payments

Gus Lejano

VP, Card Services

Bank of America

Charlotte, N.C.

Dear Gus:

Alimony — or “maintenance� or “spousal support,� the terms used these days — and/or child support are payments an ex-spouse is meant to make as financial assistance to their former partner and any children resulting from the union. Census experts project that nearly half of first marriages — same-sex or not — will end in separation or divorce within 15 years. Nationally, annual divorce rates have eclipsed or hovered close to the 1 million mark for almost 30 years, since 1975. Exact divorce counts are difficult to ascertain since four states stopped reporting theirs a few years ago.

Still, the duration of first marriages averages just under eight years, the Census Bureau reports. As of March 2002, the total number of divorced adults was about 21 million, 8.5 percent of adult men, and 11.3 percent of adult women. That's up from 4.3 million in 1970, making “divorced� the fastest growing marital status category. (See related story in Trend Ticker on page 40.)

Federal statistics are scarce. “The census stopped reporting on alimony in 1992,� says a bureau analyst with knowledge about child support trends. Current Population Survey information, whose sample size, selection and telephone methodology make for lively debate about accuracy, reveals that of more than 200 million people who report income, some 453,000 identify that income as coming from alimony payments. Assuming a correlation between the number of alimony payers and the number of payees, one would arrive at the conclusion that about 2.2 percent of the population 15 years old and over pays alimony.

As for child support, the Census Bureau reported last October that as of spring 2002, an estimated 13.4 million parents had custody of 21.5 million children under 21 years of age whose other parent lived somewhere else. Fact is, lots of people don't pay support even if they should. “Deadbeat dads� are ones who can pay but don't. “Turnips� are ex-spouses who can't afford to pay. Estimates from the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan social policy research agency, indicate that as many as 7 million people, mostly men, who should be making child support payments aren't.

Per data from the National Survey of American Families, about 5 in every 6 custodial parents are mothers (84 percent), and 1 in 6 is a father, proportions that haven't changed in 10 years. Of the 13.4 million custodial parents, about 8 million (60 percent) have a support agreement or award for their children. We'd surmise that the number of people receiving and making payments is about the same, around 8 million. Our rough estimate of the total percentage of people making either alimony or child support payments or both would be 3 percent to 4 percent of the 18-plus population, but law firms and self-help publishers would do well to conduct additional research.

New applications: In December, Des Moines, Iowa-based U.S. Bank and the state of Iowa teamed up to introduce a prepaid card through which the state loads child support payments it collects from payers onto a Reliacard Visa the recipient can use to withdraw cash or tender at locations where Visa is accepted. Other banks are also considering issuing such cards. The person who makes alimony or child support payments would replenish funds in the card for the payee, saving time, paper, labor and other costs, and expanding the ways that both payer and receiver can benefit from the transaction.


To the Editors of American Demographics:

I'm looking for demographic information on persons attending racing events, particularly Indy Racing League type contests.

Glenda Steele

Steele Communications, Inc.

Plainfield, Ind.

Dear Glenda:

Questions about auto racing's on-site fan base are all the rage right now, and not just among marketers. Political campaign directors are champing at the bit to find out more about the racing circuit spectators as well. The sobriquet “NASCAR dads� has replaced “soccer moms� as a critical demographic in this year's presidential race, as politicians assess the impact of this group as a voter base. President Bush even turned up at the Daytona 500, the biggest NASCAR event of the year, to kick off the race with the famous phrase “Gentlemen, start your engines!�

While your question specifies the Indy Racing League (IRL), we also took a look at the fan base of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). The leagues' respective rules for size, weight, shape and general design of the car differ, but fans of one league are quite similar to the other as targets for everything from endemic car products to packaged goods and beverages to telecommunications and financial services. Basically, anything aimed at adult males.

Established in 1946, NASCAR boasts a fan base of 75 million, or one-third of the adult population in the U.S. On the other hand, the IRL, which has only existed for eight years, claims a fan base of 16 million. Both leagues have seen major growth in popularity in recent years, in attendance and on television. According to Nielsen Media Research, the IRL saw a 17 percent growth in viewership from 2001 to 2002. Even more impressive, this year's Daytona 500 aired in over 11.5 million U.S. homes, up almost 10 percent from 2003.

Men dominate the audiences of both leagues: IRL has almost 70 percent male fans, and NASCAR is closer to 60 percent. These male devotees are also fairly affluent, about 35 percent are in the $50,000 to $100,000 household income bracket. As for age, the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic is also well represented in both leagues, with 28 percent for the IRL and 32 percent for NASCAR. While some may say that “NASCAR dads� may be just another media-created buzzword, racing fans as a whole have marketers and politicians drooling for two good reasons: the percentage of the population they account for, and the influence they possess.


Fax: (212) 204-1823. Attention: Christopher Reynolds


Address: 249 West 17th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10011

Submissions should include writer's full name, company, address and e-mail. Letters may be edited for clarity and space.

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