Income and Housing Support Experiments and Child Neglect
Child maltreatment—the overall term for child abuse and child neglect—is a pervasive problem in the United States. In 2018, state Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies received over 4.3 million allegations of child maltreatment, and approximately 648,000 children were found to be victims of maltreatment, with 1,770 child fatalities. Overall, nearly 37% of children will be the subject of a CPS investigation by the time they turn 18. With the exception of income maintenance to foster parents, nearly all of the $21 billion per year that the federal and state governments spend on child maltreatment is focused on psycho-social and parent education interventions and treatment. These policies have proven quite effective in reducing child abuse. However, such interventions appear to have been much less effective at reducing child neglect. This is particularly notable given that child neglect makes up nearly 75% of all child maltreatment.
These disparate impacts may be because, to a large degree, child neglect is rooted in experiences of economic hardship rather than psychopathology. Individual-level and neighborhood studies of the association between economic hardship and child maltreatment may suffer from selection bias, as families who experience hardship may be negatively selected into maltreatment or greater contact with mandated reporters of maltreatment. During his CAS appointment, Professor Schneider will examine the causal effect of income and housing support policies on child neglect by linking individuals from Illinois administrative child welfare data to data from rigorous pre-existing employment and housing experiments. By doing so, the project will identify both causal effects of economic resources on neglect and actionable policy levers to reduce child neglect and inequality in child neglect.