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Examining racial disproportionality in child protective services case decisions

  • Font, Sarah A.
  • Berger, Lawrence M.
  • Slack, Kristen S.
Registered author(s):

    Using a national sample of 1461 child protective services (CPS) investigations in the United States, we examine differences between black and white families with regard to caseworker ratings of risk and harm to the child, as well as the probability that a case is substantiated for maltreatment. We employ difference-in-difference methods to identify whether gaps in outcomes for black and white families are equivalent when black and white CPS workers conduct the investigation, and Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition methods to identify the portion of the black–white difference in outcomes that is attributable to differences in case characteristics (risk factors) versus differences in associations between these characteristics and the outcomes by race (differential treatment). We find no differences in outcomes by child race after adjusting for case characteristics. At the same time, we find that, relative to white caseworkers, black caseworkers are more likely to rate black children at subjectively higher risk of harm than white children and are also more likely to substantiate black families for maltreatment. The decomposition results suggest that—even after accounting for caseworker race—differences in outcomes for black and white children are primarily explained by differences in family and case circumstances rather than differential treatment. Thus, our analyses suggest that interventions addressing maltreatment-related risk factors that disproportionately affect black families may have greater utility for reducing racial disparities in CPS involvement than current emphases on cultural competence training.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Children and Youth Services Review.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 11 ()
    Pages: 2188-2200

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:11:p:2188-2200
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/childyouth

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    1. Putnam-Hornstein, Emily & Needell, Barbara, 2011. "Predictors of child protective service contact between birth and age five: An examination of California's 2002 birth cohort," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1337-1344, August.
    2. Putnam-Hornstein, Emily & Needell, Barbara, 2011. "Predictors of child protective service contact between birth and age five: An examination of California's 2002 birth cohort," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(11), pages 2400-2407.
    3. Elder, Todd E. & Goddeeris, John H. & Haider, Steven J., 2009. "Unexplained Gaps and Oaxaca-Blinder Decompositions," IZA Discussion Papers 4159, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    6. Ards, Sheila D. & Myers, Samuel L. & Malkis Erin, Allan & Zhou, Li, 2003. "Racial disproportionality in reported and substained child abuse and nelgect: an examination of systematic bias," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(5-6), pages 375-392.
    7. Lu, Yuhwa Eva & Landsverk, John & Ellis-Macleod, Elissa & Newton, Rae & Ganger, William & Johnson, Ivory, 2004. "Race, ethnicity, and case outcomes in child protective services," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 447-461, May.
    8. David Neumark, 1988. "Employers' Discriminatory Behavior and the Estimation of Wage Discrimination," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(3), pages 279-295.
    9. Jonson-Reid, Melissa & Drake, Brett & Kohl, Patricia L., 2009. "Is the overrepresentation of the poor in child welfare caseloads due to bias or need?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 422-427, March.
    10. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    11. Hines, Alice M & Lemon, Kathy & Wyatt, Paige & Merdinger, Joan, 2004. "Factors related to the disproportionate involvement of children of color in the child welfare system: a review and emerging themes," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 507-527, June.
    12. Ronald Oaxaca, 1971. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," Working Papers 396, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    13. Mathia Sinning & Markus Hahn & Thomas K. Bauer, 2008. "The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for nonlinear regression models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 8(4), pages 480-492, December.
    14. Harris, Marian S. & Hackett, Wanda, 2008. "Decision points in child welfare: An action research model to address disproportionality," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 199-215, February.
    15. Kim, Hansung & Chenot, David & Ji, Juye, 2011. "Racial/ethnic disparity in child welfare systems: A longitudinal study utilizing the Disparity Index (DI)," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1234-1244, July.
    16. Perry, Robin & Limb, Gordon E., 2004. "Ethnic/racial matching of clients and social workers in public child welfare," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(10), pages 965-979, October.
    17. Drake, Brett & Lee, Sang Moo & Jonson-Reid, Melissa, 2009. "Race and child maltreatment reporting: Are Blacks overrepresented?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 309-316, March.
    18. Arad-Davidzon, Bilhah & Benbenishty, Rami, 2008. "The role of workers' attitudes and parent and child wishes in child protection workers' assessments and recommendation regarding removal and reunification," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 107-121, January.
    19. Kriz, Katrin & Skivenes, Marit, 2011. "How child welfare workers view their work with racial and ethnic minority families: The United States in contrast to England and Norway," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(10), pages 1866-1874, October.
    20. Fluke, John D. & Yuan, Ying-Ying T. & Hedderson, John & Curtis, Patrick A., 2003. "Disproportionate representation of race and ethnicity in child maltreatment: investigation and victimization," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(5-6), pages 359-373.
    21. Ryan, Joseph P. & Garnier, Philip & Zyphur, Michael & Zhai, Fuhua, 2006. "Investigating the effects of caseworker characteristics in child welfare," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(9), pages 993-1006, September.
    22. Ben Jann, 2008. "The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for linear regression models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 8(4), pages 453-479, December.
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