The recent Great Recession negatively impacted children and families across the nation, even affecting the reporting rate of child abuse and neglect. While child maltreatment incidents rose by 10 percent to 24 percent, reported child maltreatment incidents sunk by 12.7 percent, according to a July 2013 report by Harvard University.
Additionally, the report found that states that were most affected by the recession saw the largest decreases in child maltreatment referral rates.
For the research results, the report examined two variables. First, it looked at the rates of child mortality since those are required to be reported and because it represents the most extreme results of a maltreatment incident. The other variable was the fraction of Google searches that included the phrase “child abuse” or “child neglect” because it captures community-level suspicion of child maltreatment and can include many more cases that go unreported.
Slashed budgets and depleted resources resulting from the Great Recession are to blame for this drop in reported incidents, the paper says. Government and community services have been affected by budget cuts and layoffs, making it harder for these resources to help citizens.
Without more funding, agencies and organizations that usually deliver and receive reports cannot function as efficiently and effectively, leading to underreporting. Some community members have also reported long waits, if they are able to get through at all, at child maltreatment hotlines.
Harvard University’s Department of Economics published this paper. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University, is the author of the report.