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Work, Welfare, and Child Maltreatment

  • Christina Paxson
  • Jane Waldfogel

This paper examines how child maltreatment is affected by the economic circumstances of parents. 'Child maltreatment' encompasses a wide range of behaviors that adversely affect children. It includes neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse or neglect. Using state-level panel data on the numbers of reports and substantiated cases of maltreatment, we examine whether socioeconomic factors play different roles for these different types of maltreatment. A key finding is that the economic circumstances of parents matter: increases in the fractions of children with absent fathers and working mothers are related to increases in many of the measures of maltreatment, as are increases in the share of families with two non-working parents, and those with incomes below 75 percent of the poverty line. We also examine the links between family structure, welfare benefits, and child maltreatment. Welfare programs affect the incentives of women and men to work and to live in single or dual-parent families. By changing the family structure and work behavior of parents as well as their incomes, welfare reforms can be expected to affect the incidence of child maltreatment. Although is too early to accurately determine what the effects of the recent reforms will be, our analysis indicates that: 1) consistent with other research, the characteristics of state's welfare systems have affected the work behavior and structure of families during the 1977-1996 time period; 2) decreases in a state's welfare benefit levels are associated with large increases in child neglect, and with small decreases in physical abuse.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7343.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7343.

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Date of creation: Sep 1999
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Publication status: published as Paxson, Christina and Jane Waldfogel. "Work, Welfare, And Child Maltreatment," Journal of Labor Economics, 2002, v20(3,Jul), 435-474.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7343
Note: CH
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  1. David M. Blau, 1999. "The Effect Of Income On Child Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 261-276, May.
  2. Williamson Hoyne, Hilary, 1997. "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 89-117, August.
  3. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," JCPR Working Papers 18, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. Sara Markowitz & Michael Grossman, 1999. "Alcohol Regulation and Violence Towards Children," NBER Working Papers 6359, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Goldsmith, Arthur H. & Veum, Jonathan R. & Darity, William Jr., 1996. "The psychological impact of unemployment and joblessness," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 333-358.
  7. Shook, Kristen, 1999. "Does the loss of welfare income increase the risk of involvement with the child welfare system?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(9-10), pages 781-814.
  8. R. A. Moffitt, . "The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1153-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  9. Kristen Shook Slack, 1999. "Does the Loss of Welfare Income Increase the Risk of Involvement with the Child Welfare System?," JCPR Working Papers 65, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  10. Mary Corcoran & Roger Gordon & Deborah Laren & Gary Solon, 1992. "The Association between Men's Economic Status and Their Family and Community Origins," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(4), pages 575-601.
  11. J. P. Ziliak & D. N. Figlio & E. E. Davis & L. S. Connolly, . "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or Economic Growth?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1151-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  12. Robert A. Moffitt, 1999. "The Effect of Pre-PRWORA Waivers on AFDC Caseloads and Female Earnings, Income, and Labor Force Behavior," JCPR Working Papers 89, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  13. Deaton, Angus, 1985. "Panel data from time series of cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 109-126.
  14. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1996. "Work, Welfare, and Family Structure: What Have We Learned?," NBER Working Papers 5644, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Jane Waldfogel & Christina Paxson, 1999. "Parental Resources and Child Abuse and Neglect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 239-244, May.
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