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STICERD Work in Progress Seminars

The impact of unemployment on child maltreatment in the United States

Elisabetta De Cao (Department of Health Policy, LSE), joint with Dan Brown

Friday 29 March 2019 13:00 - 14:00

Due to the onging coronavirus outbreak, many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as online seminars. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.


About this event

Child maltreatment includes the physical, sexual or emotional abuse and neglect of a person under the age of 18, and it is a widespread public health problem. In this paper we study the impact of unemployment on child maltreatment in the United States for the period 2004-12. Using data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, and part of a unique pilot secure micro-data program, we observe every reported incident of child abuse and neglect made to the state Child Protective Services for nearly every county. We link this dataset to county-level unemployment rate and we identify the effect of unemployment on child maltreatment using an industry shift-share or Bartik instrument. We find that one-percentage point increase in the unemployment rate leads to a 20 percent increase in neglect. We show that this result captures an effect on the actual incidence of neglect and not reporting behaviour, it is not only driven by the manufacturing sector which presents the highest weight for the Bartik, and it is robust to alternative choices of the instrument. We find indication for a direct mechanism: higher unemployment leads to a decrease in real expenditure on basic goods, like food and beverages. Finally, we consider the role of a social welfare program in mitigating the effect of unemployment on neglect. We show that the effect of unemployment is indeed smaller in states that introduced longer extensions to the duration of unemployment benefits following the onset of the Great Recession.