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Effects of COVID‐19 shutdowns on domestic violence in US cities


  • Miller, Amalia R.
  • Segal, Carmit
  • Spencer, Melissa K.


We empirically investigate the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on domestic violence using incident-level data on both domestic-related calls for service and crime reports of domestic violence assaults from the 18 major US police departments for which both types of records are available. Although we confirm prior reports of an increase in domestic calls for service at the start of the pandemic, we find that the increase preceded mandatory shutdowns, and there was an incremental decline following the government imposition of restrictions. We also find no evidence that domestic violence crimes increased. Rather, police reports of domestic violence assaults declined significantly during the initial shutdown period. There was no significant change in intimate partner homicides during shutdown months and victimization survey reports of intimate partner violence were lower. Our results fail to support claims that shutdowns increased domestic violence and suggest caution before drawing inference or basing policy solely on data from calls to police.

Suggested Citation

  • Miller, Amalia R. & Segal, Carmit & Spencer, Melissa K., 2022. "Effects of COVID‐19 shutdowns on domestic violence in US cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:131:y:2022:i:c:s0094119022000535
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2022.103476

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Leslie, Emily & Wilson, Riley, 2020. "Sheltering in place and domestic violence: Evidence from calls for service during COVID-19," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    2. Hoehn-Velasco, Lauren & Silverio-Murillo, Adan & de la Miyar, Jose Roberto Balmori, 2021. "The great crime recovery: Crimes against women during, and after, the COVID-19 lockdown in Mexico," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).
    3. Amalia R. Miller & Carmit Segal & Melissa K. Spencer, 2024. "Effects of the COVID‐19 pandemic on domestic violence in Los Angeles," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 91(361), pages 163-187, January.
    4. Gerard van den Berg & Michele Tertilt, 2012. "Domestic Violence over the Business Cycle," 2012 Meeting Papers 1171, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288.
    6. Bilge Erten & Pinar Keskin & Silvia Prina, 2022. "Social Distancing, Stimulus Payments, and Domestic Violence: Evidence from the US during COVID-19," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 112, pages 262-266, May.
    7. Abrams, David S., 2021. "COVID and crime: An early empirical look," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).
    8. Justin McCrary & Sarath Sanga, 2021. "The Impact of the Coronavirus Lockdown on Domestic Violence," American Law and Economics Review, American Law and Economics Association, vol. 23(1), pages 137-163.
    9. Amalia R Miller & Carmit Segal, 2019. "Do Female Officers Improve Law Enforcement Quality? Effects on Crime Reporting and Domestic Violence," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 86(5), pages 2220-2247.
    10. Lin-Chi Hsu & Alexander Henke, 2021. "COVID-19, staying at home, and domestic violence," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 145-155, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nielson, Kyler R. & Zhang, Yan & Ingram, Jason R., 2022. "The impact of COVID-19 on police officer activities," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    2. Colagrossi, Marco & Deiana, Claudio & Dragone, Davide & Geraci, Andrea & Giua, Ludovica & Iori, Elisa, 2023. "Intimate partner violence and help-seeking: The role of femicide news," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    3. Bhuller, Manudeep & Dahl, Gordon B. & Løken, Katrine V. & Mogstad, Magne, 2022. "Domestic Violence and the Mental Health and Well-being of Victims and Their Children," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 21/2022, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item


    Domestic violence; COVID-19 pandemic; Crime reporting; Police data;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • R28 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Government Policy


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