Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Effects of Local Job Losses on Child Maltreatment Injuries and Investigations

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 2:25 PM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Anika Schenck-Fontaine, Anna Gassman-Pines, Christina Gibson-Davis and Elizabeth Ananat, Duke University
Ecological theory suggests that economic pressures and stress experienced by parents lead to increased risk for child abuse and neglect, a link that is well-supported by empirical evidence. Yet, evidence of the effects of economic downturns on child abuse and neglect is mixed despite evidence of increases in economic stress. Given the magnitude of the most recent economic downturn, the Great Recession, it is important to understand the effects that community-wide job losses may have had on the prevalence and severity of child maltreatment. This paper addresses this question by estimating the effects of monthly job losses on maltreatment-related emergency room visits and maltreatment investigation rates at the local level in North Carolina. This paper will also identify differential impacts on child maltreatment based on whether the jobs lost were primarily to women or men.

Data and Methods

The data for this study are derived from three sources. The Job Loss Dataset, from the NC Employment Security Commission, provides information on businesses that shut down or laid off workers. The database includes the county of employment, the number of workers affected, and the date the job loss occurred. We have used these data to create monthly measures of community-wide job loss as a percent of the working-age (age 25-64) population. Child abuse and neglect investigation data were provided by the Jordan Institute for Families. The data include information about investigated child abuse or neglect cases in North Carolina from 2006 to 2011, including the most severe finding made. Emergency room visit data come from the North Carolina Department of Public Health and include data on all emergency room visits for maltreatment-related injuries in North Carolina from 2007 to 2011. The investigation and emergency room data were aggregated to provide monthly measures of child maltreatment at the judicial district level.

OLS and Poisson regression models will be utilized and will include indicators for month, district, linear district time trends (district indicators interacted with linear year), and year; these control for the seasonality of child maltreatment, persistent differences between districts, different over-time trends within each district, and any event that may have affected all districts in the state that year, respectively.


            An analysis examining the impact of district-level job losses on the rate of investigated cases of child abuse and neglect finds that an increase in local job losses had no overall effect on the rate of investigations. However, job losses did predict a shift in the Multiple Response System track assignment of these investigated reports, from the Family Assessment track to the Traditional Investigation track, which indicates an increase in the severity of child maltreatment. This effect on the severity of child maltreatment is stronger and more immediate in more economically disadvantaged districts. Additional analyses will use emergency room visit data to further explore the effects on severity. Also, analyses will identify the differential effects on child maltreatment based on whether jobs were lost primarily to men or women.