Abstract: The Effects of Child Poverty Reductions on Child Maltreatment and Placement into out-of-Home Care (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

The Effects of Child Poverty Reductions on Child Maltreatment and Placement into out-of-Home Care

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jessica Pac, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI
Sophie Collyer, MS, Research Analyst, Columbia University, NY
Christopher Wimer, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Columbia University, New York, NY
Lawrence Berger, PhD, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Jane Waldfogel, PhD, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Peter Pecora, PhD
Whitney Rostad, Senior Research Associate, Casey Family Programs
Elizabeth Parker, Senior Research Associate, Casey Family Programs
Kirk O’Brien, PhD
Background/Purpose: Children living in poverty face a considerably higher risk of maltreatment and placement into out-of-home care than their higher-income peers. A growing body of empirical evidence supports the notion that increasing household income may reduce or prevent child maltreatment and out-of-home placement by ameliorating these risk factors. Indeed, recent studies indicate that the link between family income and child maltreatment is likely to be causal in nature. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently released a “roadmap” to reducing child poverty by up to half through the implementation of a series of social policy packages. Given the link between poverty and child maltreatment, these packages also have the potential to plausibly move the needle on child safety.

We use micro-simulation methods to estimate the reductions in child maltreatment and foster care placements that are likely to result from implementation (and associated poverty reduction) of three of the NAS-recommended child poverty reduction packages: work-based and universal supports (child allowance; child care and EITC expansions), means-tested supports and work (child care, EITC, housing voucher, and SNAP expansions), and universal supports and work (child allowance; child care, EITC, and minimum wage expansions; increased program eligibility for legal immigrants). Simulations in the NAS report suggest that these packages will reduce child poverty by 36%, 51%, and 52%, respectively.

Methods: Our analyses use population data from the 2013-17 Current Population Survey (CPS-ASEC) and child maltreatment administrative data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) over the same period. We first use NCANDS to compute state level probabilities of children’s likelihood of experiencing child maltreatment (measured as Child Protective Services reports, screened-in reports, substantiations, and foster care placement) by child race/ethnicity, age, gender, and year, and assign these probabilities to children in the CPS-ASEC. We then simulate in the CPS-ASEC the household-level effect on income of each of the NAS-proposed policy packages, following the NAS simulation methodology. Finally, we used bounded estimates of the causal effect of income on child maltreatment from the most rigorous studies to date to simulate the reduction in maltreatment that should occur based on the simulated change in household income under each policy package.

Results: Preliminary results suggest considerable decreases in child maltreatment and foster care placement as a result of child poverty reduction, with the largest gains realized for the more generous income-transfer policy packages.

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings provide new information on how income support policies can reduce child maltreatment. They inform policymakers of a key ancillary gain of reducing child poverty that should not be ignored in cost-benefit calculations for anti-poverty policy implementation decision-making processes.