The Effect of Family Income on Risk of Child Maltreatment

November 22, 2010

Over six million children were reported to the child welfare system as being at risk of child abuse or neglect in the United States in 2008. Researchers and policymakers have long recognized that children living in families with limited economic resources are at higher risk for maltreatment than children from higher socioeconomic strata, but the causal effect of income on maltreatment risk is unknown. Because many factors, for example, poor parental mental health, are known to increase the probability both of poverty and child maltreatment, teasing out the causal role of income can be challenging.

Using newly available data, Institute for Research on Poverty (I.R.P.) exploit a random assignment experiment that led to exogenous differences in family income to measure the effect of income on the risk of maltreatment reported to the child welfare system.


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