Are The Adult Duggar Kids Even Getting Paid? ‘As Far As We Could Tell, We Were Volunteers’

Beth HallAP Images

The Duggar kids have been on television for almost 14 years, since their 2004 debut in 14 Children and Pregnant Again. Some of the Duggar kids have had their stories broadcast since before birth. In some states, strong laws protect children like Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s 19 offspring, resident nephew, and 10 grandkids (with at least two more on the way), who appear as actors or reality stars. However, the Duggar home state of Arkansas doesn’t have laws as strict as, say, California, where child stardom is more prevalent. It has never been clear whether the Duggar kids are receiving an income, perhaps paid into a trust, or whether Jim Bob Duggar, as the family patriarch, handles all the income. Now, one Duggar spouse is speaking out, and he says the kids aren’t getting their share.

In Touch determined last year that the family is likely being paid between $25,000 and $40,000 per episode of Counting On, with each episode taking about four days to film. If that was split evenly between every family member (Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, 19 kids, 6 spouses, 10 grandkids) it still runs around $1,000 each — but not every Duggar appears on every episode, so the split would presumably be a bit richer. (Josh Duggar, for instance, no longer appears at all, and some episodes focus on one married Duggar couple or exclude family members who have moved away.)

However, there’s no evidence that every Duggar who appears gets paid. Arkansas, where the Duggar family lives and where most filming takes place, doesn’t have such strict laws for child performers as some states. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, seven states may require a portion of income to be placed in a trust for a minor child to access upon adulthood. Arkansas only requires a permission form from the parent and a written statement from the school principal regarding the child’s academic standing. In the Duggar household, the principal would be Jim Bob Duggar, making him the sole arbiter of the camera’s access to his underage kids.

While no public records confirm that any Duggar kids are paid, there has always been a general assumption that those over 18 are. Jessa Duggar Seewald, for instance, was estimated by Romper to have a net worth of around $400,000 — but that estimate was based on a “best guess” for what size her individual paycheck was, and the site points out that the Duggar sisters getting a paycheck at all is purely an assumption.

Now, one Duggar spouse, in apparent irritation at TLC, has been spilling his guts on Twitter, and his latest claim is that he and his wife haven’t been getting paid at all for appearing on the Duggar family’s show. Presumably, Jill Duggar Dillard isn’t a special exception, so if she hasn’t been paid, it’s likely the other adult Duggar siblings haven’t either. (There are currently 11 Duggar siblings over the age of 18; as of next month, there will be an even dozen.)

Derick Dillard married Jill Duggar in 2014, and they have two children. The birth of their oldest, Israel, was featured in a special in 2015. The event was an attempted homebirth, but ended with Jill in the hospital, receiving an emergency C-section.

Now, Dillard says that TLC should have paid some of the expenses of that birth since they profited from it.

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When Duggar fans questioned Derick further, suggesting that, since he received a paycheck from TLC for the episode, the network had no further duty to cover his costs, he dropped the real bomb: Derick says that he and Jill were never paid for appearances on the show and, in fact, understood themselves to be volunteers. At this time, an inquiry to Discovery Communications, parent company of TLC, has not been answered.

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Derick has been accusing TLC of exploiting transgender teen Jazz Jennings for some time and, in response to inquiries from his social media following, has recently affirmed that he considers the Duggar children to have been exploited through their reality tv appearances as well.